PETALING JAYA, Oct 27 — Fancy a cup of coffee but tired of all the hipster cafés that are popping up everywhere you look? The crowds can be crazy at the popular coffee bars.
Well, you could go to your neighbourhood kopitiam and enjoy a kopi ping, but what if you still want your flat white or espresso?
Why not drop by an art gallery for your coffee break? That’s right — an art gallery. Shalini Ganendra Fine Art (SGFA) @ Gallery Residence is introducing The Coffee Break, an initiative to showcase different varieties of Fairtrade and organic coffees in a stylish and serene environment.
Visitors can enjoy their usual espresso, Americano, caffè latte or flat white, albeit with a more socially-conscious approach.
Gallery owner Shalini Ganendra explains, “We all enjoy good coffee and we see coffee as a complementary feature to the art gallery. We believe by selecting and offering these coffees, it doesn’t only make the space more accessible but also our gallery visitors will have good memories of their experience here.”
The Coffee Break will carry different rotating brands. This month, South American beans from the brand Puro are featured, with other brands to follow. “The Puro beans, for example, are pure Arabica beans from small farms in Peru and Honduras,” says Shalini. “We see it as a form of curating different coffees. This is a great way for visitors to learn about coffees that reflect what we do, which is community-based and about cultural enterprises.”
The elegant gallery owner believes that by sharing these “green” beans, SGFA is also supporting social enterprises that drive sustainable projects in developing regions. She says, “Where possible, we look for two things. Firstly, we try and avoid the presence of large middlemen as this reduces the income to the small farmers. Fairtrade coffee is one way of ensuring this. Secondly, we prefer organic coffees as this is better for the environment.”
Initially Shalini thought it would be challenging to find brands that are not too mass market and commercial since coffee is an agrarian product. “Surprisingly we found several brands of good organic coffee. There are socially-conscious options out there; this is a great sign.”
This coffee initiative is the latest feather in Shalini’s cap after a high-flying law career on Wall Street and setting up her own gallery in Malaysia after moving from New York. She says, “I believe in following my passion. I was always a visual person so I started the gallery as a pastime. Given how corporate I am in my outlook, I eventually made it more of an entrepreneurial venture.”
Through Shalini’s relentless dedication to high-quality art and design that is accessible to the public, SGFA has had a diverse programme of well-known curators, artists and architects coming in to exhibit and give lectures.
“SGFA has hosted curators from the Guggenheim and Smithsonian. We celebrated our 16th anniversary this year and UNESCO will be publishing a selection of our lectures in May 2015. Ultimately we are focused on education, which means informed collecting, creating a critical mass of knowledge and building a credible platform for art and design in the region,” she says.
Exhibitions at SGFA include Art is Life by Australian indigenous artist Brian Robinson and the upcoming Life of Pie by Sovereign Art Prize Asia finalist Zac Lee. There is a dynamic community of students, artists, and architects here.
The Gallery Residence itself was designed by award-winning architect Ken Yeang and is one of the first Green Building Index certified projects in Malaysia.
“Our premise is ‘Living with art’,” says Shalini. “I believe deeply in green and sustainable living, and how to reflect this in the space in which we showcase art. Even our coffee initiative isn’t in competition with the various coffee bars out there. Instead, we see ourselves as serving the community. I hope more become aware of what they consume, be it natural resources or, yes, even coffee!”
Shalini Ganendra Fine Art @ Gallery Residence
Section 16, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Open Tue-Sat 11am-7pm
Tel: 03-7932 4740