If you happen to jalan-jalan in the streets of Kuala Terengganu recently, you might have seen a new masterpiece (the one in the featured image above), which would pretty much remind you of this…
The mural was painted by four Malaysian artists from the Red Rebel Art Squad, comprising Raja Badruddin Hakim Shah Raja Kamarul Bahrin, Wan Ansri Nizam Wan Ismail, Zulkarnain Abd Latif and Mohd Fahmi Abdullah Sani aka Ku Bad, Obi Wang, Joe Janggut and Moc respectively. According to Ku Bad, the inspiration to paint the mural actually came from Mount Rushmore!
“I regard this project as similar to that of the one at Mount Rushmore because the aim is the same, which is to create the face of the nation’s number one leaders…the difference is just in terms of the medium and method of doing it.” – Ku Bad to BERNAMA.
But, unlike Mount Rushmore, which was created by carving and chiseling, the mural of the Malaysian Prime Ministers was actually drawn and painted on the wall of a building that houses the Tunku Abdul Rahman Hall. The squad was commissioned by the Kuala Terengganu City Council (MBKT) under its project to beautify the city’s oldest building and turning it into a tourist attraction.
The cost of the mural? RM30,000!!!
So being the curious cats we are at CILISOS, we decided to talk to a couple of Malaysian mural artists to find out the cost of mural paintings in Malaysia…
- Obi Wang, one of the artists who painted the mural of the seven Prime Ministers
- Fadzlan Johani, who recently painted a mural on a building near an apartment in Old Klang Road
- Juno Keng, an artist for a year and a half with a graffiti group called Public Safety Crew
According to Fadzlan…
Mural paintings in Malaysia do cost RM30,000… or even MORE
Fadzlan, who started his career as a freelance mural artist after he won in a mural competition organised by Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) in Laman Seni 7, told us that it is totally possible for mural paintings to cost RM30,000.
“Yes, generally, the cost can reach up to RM30,000 and even more. This way (it is) cheaper compared to the mural completed in Taiping or to other mural commissioned to foreign mural artists.” – Fadzlan to CILISOS.
In fact, this is not the first time local councils have allocated a huge amount of money for mural paintings to beautify buildings. For example, back in 2017, the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) collaborated with several art agencies under urban regeneration effort in several zones like Section, 52, Lorong Sultan and SS2.
This effort was even extended to Shah Alam where back lanes were painted with murals to change the public’s negative perception of back lanes. And the cost of this?
A quick search online brought us to the market price for mural paintings ranges from RM10 to RM100 per square foot. Fadzlan confirmed that, according to the rule of thumb, the rough estimation mentioned by the website is correct. But he added that this cost excludes other additional costs like the equipment used and additional help from a team of people.
According to the cost we found online, we tried calculating the rough cost of painting the mural of the seven Prime Ministers, which measures at 250 square foot…
Cheapest cost: RM10 x 250 = RM2,500
Most expensive cost: RM100 x 250 = RM25,000
And the cost for the mural in Terengganu is roughly between RM2,500 and RM25,000. Interestingly enough, Obi Wang, who has been a mural artist based in Terengganu since 2014, the cost differs from one state to another!
“Each state has different prices. For instance, if I’m not mistaken the cost to paint mural in KL is about RM20 to RM30 per square foot. In Terengganu, it’s only RM15 per square foot.” – Obi Wang told CILISOS. Translated from BM.
He pointed out that this is his standard rate and that different artists may have their own rates. But even so, he told us that his rate is considered expensive. So why is mural paintings expensive anyway??
Based on information we got from Juno, the cost depends on several factors like the size of the mural and materials used besides the payment to the artists. In addition to that, based on arts.com.my, other contributing factors includes…
- Amount of paint used (including the quality of the paint and, in this case, Ku Bad claimed that they used quality Jotun paints)
- Preparation aka the space that would be used to paint the mural
- Special equipment besides paintbrushes and paints
- The risk involved in the job since artists are required to climb ladders to paint
- The art itself because… well… it’s one of a kind.
Fadzlan added that the cost of a mural can be even more expensive depending on the process it goes through. Besides that, you may also need to pay more because mural artists are mostly specialists anyway. So you can pretty much expect the quality of the mural that you’ll be getting.
“The mural can worth more if it matches mural paintings that are made by international mural artists.” – Fadzlan. Translated from BM.
However, this is not always the case la. Fadzlan pointed out that the cost of mural can be cheap at times too.
For instance, in his recent project at the Old Klang Road that was commissioned to him by a private company as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility effort, Fadzlan managed to keep the cost as minimal as possible. How minimal is minimal? Unfortunately, he didn’t reveal the real cost to us because, according to him, it may affect the price rate set by full-time artists by… 50%. 🙁
And he managed to keep it at a low cost because he decided to work alone and spend more time instead of hiring other people to help him finish the project. He only had his wife, who acted as his manager and part-time assistant, who had accompanied him throughout the 9 months (but not every day la ofcos) of completing the mural.
In fact, he only used 250 litres of paint, stationery and a rented boom lift to paint the building near the apartment, which, according to him, houses offices and shop lots.
As for Juno, he told us that it’s not necessary to have a standard price range. But the problem that may be caused by that is…
Most people want CHEAP murals within a short period of time
When we asked these mural artists the challenges they face, we were given various answers. For Fadzlan and Obi Wang, it was the cost of the mural and time to complete it. This is because Fadzlan told us that most people would want to pay less for mural paintings and would ask him to complete them in a short period of time.
And this may not be possible la considering the various stages mural artists have to go through before their work gets completed. Fadzlan told us that these stages include the designing, method, cleaning, surface preparation, *breathes* measuring, sketching, colouring and evaluating process. *breathes*
Other challenges include the weather in Malaysia. Well… because… it’s hot and humid. Fadzlan shared how he had to concurrently draw the design of Tree of Hope to prevent pencil marks from fading due to exposure to the weather. Juno agreed with this claiming that unexpected weather can ruin paintings.
The other challenge most mural artists may face is the legality of their paintings.
“I think one of the obvious reasons would be the law. It is still considered illegal to paint on walls with no permission.” – Juno told us.
When we talk about the legality of mural paintings, asking for permission from building owners and local city councils may be one part of it. We found a guideline to paint murals on buildings by Penang’s Local Council (MBPP) (we’re not sure why we can’t find this guideline for other states tho) which states that mural artists can paint murals on public and private spaces like on sidewalks or back lanes. Well, that is as long as they have the permission from building owners.
Another part of the legality of mural paintings comes in the form of the content of the mural itself. Based on the guideline we found, MBPP has listed out several criteria to paint murals on building walls like…
- Murals should not touch on sensitive issues like race and religion
- It should not be an advertisement and promote anything that can shame the country
- Murals should not destroy the building walls or structure
- Murals should be covered with public liability insurance, and many more
And the most important thing is for mural artists to get permission from local councils themselves. Obi Wang shared that, in Terengganu, he would have to go to MPKT to get a permit to draw a mural unless he is painting a mural in private spaces. Just to give you a clearer picture of how the procedure is, here’s an example of the procedure before painting murals based on MBPP’s guideline:
There have been several cases where a number of murals like the LEGO cop mural in Johor Bahru and the Girl with Stool and Birdcage mural in Ipoh which were removed by the respective state city councils. Both murals were by a Lithuanian mural artists, Ernest Zacharevic aka the guy who painted most of the famous street arts around Penang.
The LEGO cop mural was removed due to the message that Ernest was tryna bring. Ernest claimed that, based on his take on what local thinks of Johor Bahru, the state is famous for Legoland and its high crime rates. Ernest’s other mural in Ipoh, on the contrary, was removed because the owner of the building claimed that the mural has faded.
But Juno also added that, in recent years, Malaysia has slowly embraced the beauty of street art and has started to be a bit more lenient about it. This may be why we start to see a lot of murals everywhere. And some of those are the result of collaborations between mural artists and local city councils like the ones we mentioned earlier.
Juno, who has a series of artworks called Buku Latihan in four different locations in KL, may have a point.
And this is because local councils are not only working with local mural artists but also foreign artists. In fact, back in 2017, a local mural artist known as Escapeva told The Star that city councils prefer to work together with foreign mural artists compared to local artists.
“It is ironic, a lot of Malaysian street artists are highly sought after overseas but Malaysians rather pay foreign artists handsome sums to be here.” – Escapeva to The Star in 2017.
But Juno highlighted how this is probably because of the quality of work produced by the mural artists themselves. As an artist that has never been approached by city councils, he agrees that it may be rare for local artists to collaborate with city councils.
This is quite true based on Obi Wang‘s experience in painting murals in Terengganu.
“In 2015, I was chosen to draw a mural at Sultan Nasaruddin Shah. And from then onward, MPKT would contact me if they want me to paint murals.” – Obi Wang.
Fadzlan, who has experienced working with a couple of local city councils, urges any organisation or individual who wish to invite foreign artists to make it part of their job requirement to collaborate with local talents on the artwork commissioned. This will give local artists an opportunity to learn directly from these international mural artists and later make them popular too!
Having said that, here’s to hoping that murals won’t just be limited to walls in sekolah rendah anymore.