Object Matters: Emancipating the Collection of Rahime Harun
By Danial bin Fuad

A quick Google search for Rahime Harun will bring up a tribute article by Ooi Kok Chuen, following the former’s sudden passing in 2008. The title of the article “Champion of the Arts'' reflects Rahime’s lifelong support of the art industry. A popular anecdote is taken from Juhari Said’s essay, A.P. Studio of how Rahime would purchase his artworks for RM500 each month to show his support. One of Rahime’s notable contributions was establishing a print workshop at Anak Alam, in 1985, where he employed the then relatively new artists, Jailani Abu Hassan and Rafiee Ghani.

Over a three decade period, Rahime amassed a collection which included works by Latiff Mohidin, Syed Ahmad Jamal and Awang Damit. In 2008, his collection was exhibited at the National Art Gallery, where he had a stint as Director-General. Keeping his legacy alive, his daughter Nazura exhibits his collection in Object Matters: Emancipating the Collection of Rahime Harun, showing at the Rahime-founded A.P. Art Gallery.

The exhibition is divided into three components exhibited in multiple rooms and unveiled at several timings. The first component is called “Compilation” consisting of various research papers, newspaper clippings, books and videos. The most interesting part is the video interviews with artists (Jailani Abu Hassan, Juhari Said and Rafiee Ghani), collectors (Zain Azahari and Pakhruddin Sulaiman) and art workers (Beverly Yong and Rachel Ng from RougeArt). They provide meaningful insight into the Malaysian art scene and the vital role of collectors, giving us a better understanding of the ecosystem.

For “Collection”, viewers are invited to peek into Rahime’s extensive library and collection. A.P. Art Gallery has been in the same location since Rahime bought the three-storey building in 2003. Apart from functioning as a gallery and workspace, it was also his home. Through his library, we get a glimpse of his inner workings in the massive stacks of books. We get to see the more organised collector side of Rahime when stepping into his gallery, where the works are carefully categorised and indexed.

For the “Creation” component, three artists were invited to craft a response to Rahime’s collection. Amir Amin presents an interactive work with the title “If I Am An Art Collector / Kalaulah Aku Seorang Kolektor (Citrawan) Seni'' where he invites the general public to create a slogan describing what they would like to collect. It was interesting to see the responses, which varied from collecting works from up-and-coming artists to having the greatest collection in the country.

Nazrul Hamzah presents a series of self-portraits posing with works from Rahime’s collection. He interestingly chooses to pose next to works labelled “unknown”, and the pose he chooses indicates a claim to the art work. Nazrul shows that throughout Rahime’s journey, he also bought works from unknown artists as a way of supporting them, as opposed to just buying known works with established details.

Mark Teh also presents a participatory work. He asked the staff of the Manggis Group (the mother company of A.P. Art Gallery) to pick out their favourites from Rahime’s collection. He then printed the works digitally and paraded the works around the Melawati are on the back of a lorry. Teh shows the importance of reaching people outside the art scene, so that these pieces can be appreciated by the masses, extending their life beyond gallery shows.

The different components and audience participation of Object Matters are what make it engaging, as opposed to just having pictures on a wall. It’s just too bad that the pandemic means we can only enjoy the works online. I feel that an exhibition like this needs to be experienced in person. Object Matters: Emancipating the Collection of Rahime Harun is an ongoing exhibition which can be viewed at https://www.objectmatters.art/.

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Danial Fuad is a participant of the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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