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Furniture, arts combo show

A N exhibition of elegant hand-made Cambodian furniture and paintings by renowned Russian artists is on display at the No Problem cafe until Oct 30.

The brainchild of Belgian Dirk Duchateau and Russian Sergei Naumov, the joint artistic display stems from the friendship developed between the two since their arrivals in Phnom Penh several years ago.

"I saw some of Sergei's paintings," mused Duchateau, "and so we thought that displaying the artworks and furniture together would make the exhibition more attractive."

Duchateau first arrived in Cambodia in October 1991 and was initially working with a firm that cleared imported containers through customs.

After two years he says that he was not only wrestling with containers during the day but found himself dreaming about them at night.

With $200 in his pocket, Duchateau decided to break out on his own. His company, Carnath Pte Ltd., now employs up to 20 carpenters full time and is producing custom-designed furniture from Cambodian hardwoods.

"Everything is made by hand," says Duchateau. "We use no nails, only dowels in all our pieces."

Furniture on display includes mahogany chairs for $50 to an exquisite roll-top desk that has already sold for $2200.

Sergei Naumov is the general manager of Casotim, the Russian timber company that operates a sawmill south of Phnom Penh, which also supplies the hardwoods for Duchateau's furniture.

Naumov has secured paintings from such artists as Vassiliy Lenivkin, Viacheslaff Shmaguin and Robert Papikian, all of whom have displayed their works in galleries around the world.

He notes that all of the paintings have been legally exported out of Russia, which accounts for what some might say are hefty prices for the pieces due to a 100 percent export duty on all Russian art. The paintings range in price from $400 to $8,000.

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