Artober 2021: A Quarter of Art



October to December 2021 sees the second iteration of CIMB’s groundbreaking arts and culture festival, Artober.



Chong Kim Chiew, Malaya Japanese Occupation – 5 Dollars


As a leading Southeast Asian bank, CIMB is associated with notions of Asian finance. Yet, to stay ahead of the regional economic curve and evolving customer needs it seems the bank recognises a need to be on track with social, cultural and community trends at home in Malaysia and across her neighbouring countries. 


As Southeast Asia increasingly engages with the global trend for festivals and regularly scheduled art exhibitions (think of Singapore’s annual art fairs or the Bangkok Biennale), CIMB added Malaysia into the mix with a new form of cultural activity in 2020. Enter the first-ever arts and culture campaign by a bank: Artober. Throwing their weight behind the Malaysian art scene indicates CIMB’s recognition that in the evolving contemporary landscape art is an asset whose value extends past the financial. Art has the ability to connect people with ideas, events and prompt critical discourse that stimulates and encourages positive change. Concurrently, zeroing in on our local art scene links to the bank’s mission of ‘profits with purpose’ while building a resilient artistic community—a key component of Artober’s mission statement.



Artober by CIMB


With an objective to look after the country’s cultural frontliners in the wake of the COVID-19, CIMB seeks to help the art market expand and to circulate knowledge amongst the public with a series of events, exhibitions and content that will be available over a three-month period from October 1st to December 31st 2021. Dynamic and curious, these projects keep artistic support at their core. This is primarily through the staging of various commercially viable art exhibitions, as well as shining a light on other Malaysian projects that provide artists with much-needed support, such as the Rimbun Dahan Artist Residency.


The curated mix of in-person activities in the form of gallery exhibitions and a hotel art fair and digital content indicates that CIMB is in touch with the ways in which we interact with each other and the world around us as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The art world has long utilised a mix of online and offline activities for festivals and fairs, but during the extensive lockdowns necessitated by the pandemic these have taken on an increasingly hybrid model that creatively compliments each other. From the first edition of Artober, CIMB sought to harness the power of video as a way to bring content to wider audiences; this year Artober will extend this with a series of highly anticipated digitally presented art talks.


We break down this extensive cultural campaign into a bite-sized series for our readers. Read on what is coming up and where you can see it! 

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Nor Tijan Firdaus, After The Amber Necklace, 2020


Crucially this year’s exhibitions will provide the opportunity for artists to showcase the works they made while in isolation and the ability to connect with buyers. This is not only made possible by the network of gallery exhibitions but a hotel art fair held at Element Hotel Kuala Lumpur. Repurposing a series of rooms and suites as art fair booths, this fair invites galleries to showcase their artists in a single centrally located space that promises to be a magnet for local art lovers. The non-traditional format of this fair reframes the way in which art is seen and interacted with—a fitting theme for works that reflect the contemporary Malaysian landscape.

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