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Modernist hotel aims to honour art of 60s

Ramos asked various artists and photographers to decorate each of the guest suites

Graphic designer Loven Ramos is paid to come up with original ideas. His most original may well be his latest project, the Hotel 1961 guesthouse and art gallery.

Staying at Hotel 1961 in Siem Reap is like stepping into a pop culture time capsule, with guests given the choice of four themed rooms or “galleries” ranging from a Kennedy suite filled with hand-painted American flags and JFK memorabilia, to the Norodom suite, designed as a tribute to Cambodian film and music during the Sihanouk era.

Housed in a whitewashed villa built in a distinctly 60s modernist style, Hotel 1961 also includes two downstairs open-air gallery rooms used to showcase paintings and installations from a rotating series of artists.

Ramos told 7Days he rented the building last year after noticing its distinctive architecture.

“Originally I was just going to live here and use the downstairs space for a gallery, but we still had plenty of room and someone suggested opening a small, manageable guesthouse as well. It was all
a happy accident.”

In keeping with the style of the building, Ramos asked various artists and photographers to decorate each of the guest suites, which as well as the Kennedy and Norodom rooms, include a bedroom designed as a homage to the work of Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann, and a “propaganda” room filled with photos from the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Priced at $30 per night, the rooms also come with a selection of books and DVDs chosen by Ramos, who jokes that the comfortable environment of Hotel 1961 means that guests are sometimes reluctant to leave and explore Siem Reap.

This led to a decision to begin work on a café attached to the main building, expected to be finished mid-May.

“I didn’t really see the need for a café until I talked to the guests. A lot of the time I design an itinerary for their trip, but then after they’ve done Angkor Wat, they just want to stay here for the next few days. And once they decide to stay put, they begin asking for food.”

As well as the café, Ramos told 7Days he plans to add four more rooms to the hotel, with the new ones priced at $60 per night.

“These will be a little more upscale rooms with higher rates. We’ll definitely spend more time with everything down to bathrooms, bedding and furniture.”

As well as running a private graphic design business and co-managing the Alley West boutique store Poetry, Ramos is also a joint partner in the Art Deli gallery and showroom which is preparing for an exhibition of paintings by several Myanmar artists in July.

Ramos’s partner in Art Deli, David “Jam” Ramjattan, told 7Days an ongoing attempt is being made to create the longest painting in Cambodia, assisted by 18 Battambang-based artists.

The project kicked off outside Art Deli last month and will continue through the year with the painting being assembled in Siem Reap and Battambang.

“We were trying to vie for the longest in the world but when we were researching we found one that was six kilometres [long], made by 3000 artists from Mexico so we decided to vie for the longest in Cambodia instead,” he said.

Ramjattan, who is starting a studio similar to Art Deli in Battambang, explained he and Ramos are also planning a bicycle trip through Battambang in December accompanied by local artists.

“The idea is to take the art to the countryside. We [will] stop at pagodas, markets and schools and exhibit, so the route is subject to change. Each of the 22 participants signed up for the bicycle exhibit will carry a painting or sculpture with them as they ride with us.”

Ramos is understated when he describes the year ahead as “busy”, and maintains he is not the slightest bit stressed at having to coordinate five different projects at once.

“That’s the great thing about Cambodia – you don’t have to plan anything. Everything just falls into place.”



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