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Inside the original ArtDeli.
Inside the original ArtDeli. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Return of the artdeli in pop-up form

Art fans are in for a treat tomorrow. The hugely popular, oft-mourned and defunct ArtDeli is back – for one month only. Co-owners and fellow artists Loven Ramos and Jam Ramjattan are resurrecting the quirky art venue in the form of a pop-up gallery in a brand new location next to Wat Prom Rath, a few doors down from Bodia Nature and Spa.

“We’ve missed it so much,” says Ramos. “It’s the kind of business that you don’t do for money; you do for love and for fun. We’ve always wanted this, but never had an opportunity.”

The impetuous duo set the wheels in motion a mere ten days ago, after Jam spotted the boarded-up empty building on what they have already christened ‘Alley of Ghosts’ – after the belief of many locals that the pagoda is a popular meeting spot for ghosts. Given that the name they ascribed to the Art Deli’s original location (Alley West) stuck, who knows the pair could find they’ve created a whole new street.

“It’s always spontaneous with Jam,” says Ramos. “It’s so organic.”

Artists and business partners Jam Ramjattan (Ieft) and Loven Ramos outside the new venue.
Artists and business partners Jam Ramjattan (Ieft) and Loven Ramos outside the new venue. Miranda Glasser

Ramjattan picks up the thread. “I called Loven for a coffee just to get his critique on my new artworks, and as we were talking I told him I had an idea. I wanted to show this on the street – it would be great if people could walk by and see it.”

Ramjattan, who also co-founded Battambang’s first community art gallery, Sammaki, took Ramos to see the disused building he’d spotted three months ago – also, ironically, a former art gallery – and within days the deal was done. Ramos calls it “serendipity, ArtDeli part two.”

He says, “We wanted it to be a little bit secret. We just really miss working with each other, working without a plan, without the idea of profiting. Of course you have to think about that but with our projects it always has to come organically, and that’s why we are still so in love with it. We were always like, ‘when can we do it again?’”

ArtDeli originally opened in 2010, with a similar intention of being a month-long pop-up gallery/shop. The pair transformed the small shop – which initially had no running water or electricity – in a week, on a budget of $200, and two years later it was still going. Sadly, the popular spot closed in late 2012 after rental prices became too high.

“It was created as a response to all the galleries closing down,” says Ramos. “This city was full of galleries before, but during the 2008-9 recession they started closing. So we were selling affordable art – that’s why we called it an ‘art deli’ because you buy art like it was a sandwich; affordable and accessible.”

ArtDeli mark two will display two exhibitions. Ramos, in his first exhibit in some years, will show Hyperfuturisticexpialidocious, and this will be followed in two weeks’ time by Ramjattan’s Borders//Lines.

Jam and Loven outside the original ArtDeli, on Alley West.
Jam and Loven outside the original ArtDeli, on Alley West. PHOTO​ SUPPLIED

“Mine is actually a pre-exhibition exhibition,” says Ramos. “These are the initial works for my new series. They are about the future – they’re political, a fun satire, all about how the future is going to look.”

He adds that he was inspired in part by old 1930s posters, predicting the future. “I love looking at 1930s futuristic posters of how they envision our year.”

Borders//Lines is an art installation exploring, “why we live in these spaces.” As before, there will also be works by local artists to view and to buy – the cheapest being a very reasonable 99 cents – and the general concept remains the same.

“We have the same ArtDeli credo wherein we’re going to sell affordable art,” says Ramos. “The artists we represent who have smaller works, we’ll put that back. We’re still in contact with them and I think it’s going to be really, really fun.”

Ramos and Ramjattan say the gallery will look suitably different from its predecessor, but some original features remain such as the distinctive blue and silver sign.

“What we originally planned was, let’s do a bit of nostalgia, and do it the same way we did with ArtDeli,” says Ramos. “Let’s have a $200 budget.”

Ramjattan adds, “It’s going to look different, because the space in itself commands it, but there’s going to be stuff for nostalgia’s sake. And it’s funny but we haven’t thrown away the stuff that we had before. We still have a lot of the furniture.”

So does the dynamic duo think that history might repeat itself, and the ‘month-long pop-up’ could still remain in two years’ time?

Cue laughter, and a chorus of non-committal replies.

“For the next month, the plan is to have as much fun as possible,” says Ramjattan. “A lot of activities – Loven’s show, my show, some board-game nights, music and just fun nights every week.”

Both agree that the art scene has evolved since ArtDeli’s inception four years ago.

“It’s definitely changed in terms of the artists that are around,” says Ramjattan. “More variety, more depth to their work. And I think ArtDeli’s one of the few places you walk into and you get original art, from 15 different artists. So artists can actually come in and kind of critique other people’s work.”



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