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Contemporary Art Comes Home in Landmark National Museum Show


Anida Yoeu Ali with her Studio Revolt crew in production for The Buddhist Bug series. Here she stands in front of Java Cafe and Gallery in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, June 25, 2015. (Courtesy photo/Masahiro Sugano)

Anida Yoeu Ali with her Studio Revolt crew in production for The Buddhist Bug series. Here she stands in front of Java Cafe and Gallery in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, June 25, 2015. (Courtesy photo/Masahiro Sugano)

Mr. Kung Vireak, the National Museum Director, said that the National Museum welcomes all kinds of artworks, traditional and contemporary, made by all Cambodian artists.

The country’s leading contemporary artists will showcase their work at the National Museum in Phnom Penh from July 1 until August 31.

This is the first time that the artists whose work has been exhibited abroad will have their art on display in Cambodia.

The show, titled Histories of the Future, is curated by Dana Langlois, founding director of the Phnom Penh art space JavaArts.

“I was actually quite excited to take on this project because, over the last 10 to 15 years, quite a lot of very good and interesting contemporary [Cambodian] artworks have been supported and exhibited in Australia,” Langlois, who has been working in the Cambodian art scene for the past 16 years, told VOA Khmer.

She added that this was a great opportunity to bring this work to Cambodia to be showcased together in one exhibition.

“I thought it was a really interesting opportunity also to think about the theme of what it means to place contemporary artworks next to the antique artworks [in the museum] and what that means today, and how we then can support the contemporary art scene,” explained Langlois.

The exhibition will feature 17 artworks including video, photography, sculpture, prints and installations. It seeks to address the social, cultural and economic issues that Cambodia has experienced for decades and that have shaped the country’s modern history.

One of the artworks is a short documentary film by 29-year-old Kavich Neang. The documentary tells the story of a Cambodian family who fled the Khmer Rouge to find a better life in Australia.

A scene of Kavich Neang's documentary film 'Lim Vy' when Ms. Vy works at home preparing vegetables the day before she sells it at Sunday Market in Brisbane, Australia. (Courtesy photo/Kavich Neang)

A scene of Kavich Neang's documentary film 'Lim Vy' when Ms. Vy works at home preparing vegetables the day before she sells it at Sunday Market in Brisbane, Australia. (Courtesy photo/Kavich Neang)

“We want Cambodians to see all the work that we’ve done,” Neang said. “Most of the work done in Cambodia is not seen by Cambodians, and that is the missing part that we need to think about.”

Another of the works is The Buddhist Bug, a multimedia project by Cambodian-American artist Anida Yoeu Ali that features an orange larvae-like creature-cum-outfit that is worn by the artist herself. It’s a work that touches on her heritage involving both Buddhism and Islam, she said.

“This exhibition at the National Museum, I think, is one of the most important exhibitions [in terms of] contemporary art in Cambodia,” she said.

“I feel this way because I’ve been there for the past six years, you know, really watching the contemporary art scene emerge and re-emerge out of very limited resources and very little government support,” Ali added.

Anida Yoeu Ali, The Old Cinema, 2014, HD Video, Color, 3min08sec. (Courtesy photo/Anida Yoeu Ali and InCube Arts)

Anida Yoeu Ali, The Old Cinema, 2014, HD Video, Color, 3min08sec. (Courtesy photo/Anida Yoeu Ali and InCube Arts)

“And, so, to have contemporary arts by mainly Cambodian and Cambodian diaspora artists in a space like the National Museum, which is so historically significant, I think that it’s just huge.”

This two-month long exhibition is a collaboration of the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and the National Museum of Cambodia.

Mr. Kung Vireak—the National Museum Director—told VOA that the museum has only been showing antiques and artistic works in the traditional context, so he thought having a contemporary exhibition such this is very important.

“That’s why I accepted this [exhibition] request immediately in order to improve the content of our museum from only focusing on the past to including the future,” said Mr. Kung.

He also called for “[Cambodian] artists—who would work in other institutions other than the governmental body—to exhibit their work at the National Museum because there are national and international visitors coming to the museum every day, so they can display their works and at the same time, we are also proud to show that we also have Cambodian contemporary artists.”

Mr. Kung also added that the National Museum welcomes all kinds of artworks, traditional and contemporary, made by all Cambodian artists.

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