Kuala Lumpur (The Star/ANN) - The drive to promote Malaysian arts to woo more visitors to Malaysia is paying off with an increase in sales and the mushrooming of art galleries, the country's Tourism Minister Dr Ng Yen Yen said yesterday.
"Last year, 20 new art galleries opened. There is also an increase in the sale of art through auctions. There were three art auctions this year as opposed to only one three years ago," the minister said after opening the Art Expo Malaysia 2012 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Most buyers are from the Asean region, she added.
Currently, Malaysia has about 100 art galleries and more than 500 artists nationwide.
Dr Ng said she started to promote art tourism when she was appointed to her ministerial portfolio in 2009.
"I was looking at new tourism products to introduce Malaysia to the world, one which can attract returning tourists. Malaysian art was one of them," she said.
As a result of the ministry's promotion, she said artists were getting recognition for their work as well as support from the private sector.
The ministry, added Dr Ng, helped created awareness of Malaysian art by encouraging tour operators to bring their groups to visit art galleries and exhibitions.
"We provide support in terms of materials such as brochures so operators can package their tours accordingly," she said.
The three-day Art Malaysia Expo, which ends on Sunday, has over 60 galleries from 23 countries showcasing paintings, sculptures and drawings.
Admission is free at the expo, which is being held at the Matrade Exhibition and Convention Centre.
In Putrajaya earlier, Dr Ng said the ministry had for the first time launched four sets of personalised corporate postage stamps in conjunction with World Tourism Day.
The four designs are Taman Negara - to represent the country's eco-tourism efforts, Redang Island - to highlight the islands and beaches, Malaysian food and the Malaysia Tourism Centre in Kuala Lumpur (MaTic).
"MaTic was also the first Parliament (venue) for Malaysia so it represents our appreciation for our country's heritage," said Dr Ng.
World Tourism Day is celebrated annually on September 27 under the endorsement of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
The commemorative stamps are not for sale. Those who wish to get their hands on the stamps can send their request to firstname.lastname@example.org.