Myanmar’s Most Successful Artist

Reuters reports that artists in Myanmar are hoping the country’s rapprochement with the rest of the world will allow the country’s art market to flourish as Vietnam’s has over the past decade. Even without the support of the West, however, at least one artist from Myanmar has been able to break out, demonstrating the increasing strength of the Southeast Asian art market:

Prices have already started to rise for Myanmar’s most successful artist, Min Wae Aung, known for expansive canvasses of golden-robed monks, often shaded by pink rattan umbrellas and set against gold backdrops.

“This one is $9,000,” said Ma Thit, a manager at New Treasure Art Gallery, pointing to a portrait of four monks walking in sandals. Six years ago, she said, similar Min Wae Aung paintings sold for $6,000. “It goes up every two years or so, and there has been an increase in interest recently.”

But Min Wae Aung is the exception in a country where most artists have thrived in obscurity with limited resources, often in fear of state censors rooting out political messages in every song, book, cartoon and piece of art.

He gained prominence in the 1990s with shows in Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries that maintained ties with Myanmar while the West shunned the country following repeated human rights violations, including a 1988 crackdown on pro-democracy protests that killed thousands.

After 1998, when the Singapore Art Museum added his painting “Golden Monks” to its Southeast Asia collection, some U.S. and European galleries began to show his work.

In Myanmar, Hopes for an Art Renaissance (Reuters)