Visiting a hidden gem, Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery

Bank Negara Malaysia and Art Gallery or better known, to me, as BNM was introduced by my buddy who has an insatiable curiosity towards everything, especially art. The building was completed in 2011 – if you read their website, it is stated that the aim of the art gallery is to “showcase the Central Bank’s collection of Malaysia and Southeast Asian art acquired since 1962”. What. That’s 54 years of art acquisition.

Apart from that though, nobody seems to know about BNM. We spoke about our visit over dinner and some of the KL-born-and-bred were like, what is this BNM? Why have they not heard of it? It’s crazy, really. The entire building is a sleek, shiny, modernist building sprawled in the middle of greeneries, isolated roads and lack of human counts. The name of the building is actually Sasana Kijang which houses the BNM and Knowledge Management Centre. What’s the meaning of Kijang? We know it is some kind of deer due to its close association to Bank Negara Malaysia. Sasana, on the other hand, means “a meeting point for the learned and wise”in Sanskrit. Combined, these two words sound so apt and beautiful.

Technically, the gallery is only on the third floor. There are two parts to it – the permanent exhibition and a temporary one, currently showcasing Terengganu: Selaut Kasih, Sepantai Sayang, a solo exhibition by Terengganu-born artist, Chang Fee Ming. I have never heard of him but his watercolour works and portrayal of the everyday life of Terrenganu put Singapore’s Nanyang artists’ works to shame. Maybe it is the Malaysian pride in me speaking but the composition, technique and intricate detailing of Batik carry so much nuances than the Tongkangs of the Singapore River. This exhibition features over 70 works by him, those that were done in the 1970s up till today. You can literally see the progression of his skills and the maturity of his style. I was screaming in excitement (silently in my heart, of course) over how awesomely curated the entire show was – on a side note, I need to know who curated this.

The permanent exhibition is equally impressive; it houses the, I assume, greats of SEA artists from Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Philippines to local artists from different states. I spotted Penang’s very own Dato’ Chuah Thean Teng and Indonesia’s great love, Kartika Affandi.

Apart from the Art Gallery on the third floor, the other floors house the

  • Numismatics Gallery – history of money. Remembered studying about those mata wang/dinar in Sejarah? You finally get to see them in person.
  • Islamic Finance Gallery
  • Bank Negara Malaysia Gallery
  • Economics Gallery
  • RM1 Million tunnel in the Children’s Gallery (yes, for real, RM1 Million worth of bank notes)

My attention span stopped after Numismatics Gallery. I just can’t – economics’s not my thing. I was still quite inspired by their interactive screens and endless streams of information though. Where else could you scrutinise bank notes from different countries, different decades and get yourself acquainted to the whole ‘money system’ right? Regardless, the third floor is a gem. The next time I visit KL, I will definitely revisit the BNM

The BNM is located at Sasana Kijang, 2 Jalan Dato’ Onn, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and opens daily from 10am to 6pm (closed on first 3 days of Hari Raya Aidilfitri). Entry fee: Free.


Permanent exhibitions.

Terengganu: Selaut Kasih, Sepantai Sayang by Chang Fee Ming. Exhibition starts from 17 March to 17 July.

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