KUALA LUMPUR: If you’re ever idling in the Bukit Bintang area with about an hour or two to spare, why not visit a particularly unique Malaysian museum there?
Surrounded by apartment lots built in the 1970s and 1980s, Ur-Mu, or the Urban Museum, stands out quite literally with its modern architecture.
It makes complete sense, given that the designer is none other than Tan Loke Mun, one of Malaysia’s greatest living architects to date.
The award-winning Tan also happens to be the founder of Ur-Mu, where many of the exhibits on display are those he personally collected over the years.
Located on the first floor is the gallery called “Sens-Asia” that houses art pieces on colourful Asian life.
Head over to the back where a wide window gives visitors a view of the back alley, with stickers of anthropomorphic rats pasted on the glass.
The idea that life itself is art is taken seriously here, and even the underbelly of Kuala Lumpur has its own visual appeal, if you know where to look.
The adjacent gallery called “People”, also asks visitors to rethink their ideas of what constitutes art, with a pair of mirrors to literally self-reflect on the matter.
The second floor is one for more politically-minded Malaysians, with art pieces taking inspiration from ongoing national affairs.
“Kampung Kita” is a gallery for artworks inspired by life in rural Malaysia, highlighting the daily struggles of the humble farmer.
On the same floor is the “Power Play” gallery, a visual commentary of Malaysia’s ongoing political struggles.
Here, it seems that even the placements of the artworks are statements in themselves: the portrait of a former prime minister is hung facing a throne, constantly eyeing it.
Upon climbing the stairs to the third floor is the “Raksasa” or “Monster” gallery, a skeletal structure of a strange creature greeting you at the very entrance.
Meet the “Makara”, or the bones of one. This sculpture by Tan Zi Hao takes inspiration from Hindu mythology, featuring the various parts of an elephant, crocodile, wild boar and fish attached to one body.
Next door is the “Superheroes” gallery with art pieces inspired by current pop culture.
In addition to satirical pieces featuring the Japanese Ultraman fighting giant pungent-smelling local fruits, several artworks here are dedicated to the real heroes of this age.
Though Covid-19 may not be the talk of the town now, healthcare workers, who worked tirelessly to contain the spread of the virus, are clearly remembered here.
The galleries on the fourth level, “Framing Modernity and Structure”, are apparently frequented by art and architecture students.
Why? In addition to art pieces featuring iconic Malaysian buildings, several of Tan’s own architectural drawings are on display.
The fifth and last level of the museum houses a rooftop garden dedicated to the late Made Wijaya, a world-famous landscape designer.
And before you call it a day here, take a break at the “Sculpture Lounge”, where you can rest your feet on the many couches overlooking the collection of sculptures on display.
If you still have enough energy left, wander out onto the balcony, where the view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline is a magnificent work of art in itself.
Speaking with FMT Lifestyle, Tan said the museum and its architecture are inseparable: “Art and architecture are symbiotic. They mutually benefit from each other.”
Hence, when you leave the museum, take the glass elevator instead of the stairs. Through the glass, you will pass each floor you visited, succinctly summarising all that you have seen during your visit here.
Ur Mu (Urban Museum)
3, Jalan Bedara
50200 Kuala Lumpur
RM5: Seniors, students, disabled persons
Free: Children under 12 years old
Contact: +603-2110 3004