Sasha Constable: “It’s been a great platform for a lot of up and coming artists. It’s cemented a lot of other careers of artists who are already well established and it’s a launch pad for people really because there is a much wider audience and a fair amount of sales put through the hotel. So it’s been a good place from a financial point of view for the artist because it enables them to continue to do what they do best.”
She adds that the exhibitions have played a part in solidifying the importance of Cambodian, and says during her time the art scene has grown: “Leaps and bounds, it’s unbelievable. If you looked at artists, what they were producing ten, twelve years ago, and not only that the venues that were available, the almost complete lack of an art scene, it’s amazing what’s happened and I think in many ways that mirrors the way a lot of things have developed as well. I’m kind of speechless, it is phenomenal.”
They’ve had a fashion show, a flooded gallery and an indoor garden.
And that was before they even hung up any art. As Hotel de la Paix closes its doors next month, we look back at the art program that made it such a pillar of the community.
Claire Byrne talks to two curators who worked for the hotel, Sasha Constable and Don Protasio, and artist Vincent Brouslet whose work is part of the final show, Seven.
Don Protasio says la Paix is so iconic in Siem Reap because of its integration within the community. “Really the main reasons why I came in as a curator was the whole idea that we wanted to have a venue for Cambodian art and Cambodian artists. It has a heart, but it doesn’t come off as something commercial or just for show, it feels authentic. You know that the community accepts it and believes in it, that makes it valid and legitimate. Even just regular people who come to eat ice cream or to have food here become interested in the artwork. It’s in a setting where it’s more approachable.”
Sasha Constable nominates her first show as in-house curator: “The first was actually a very special one for me because it was a stone carving project I’d been teaching to graduates again from RUFA so it was a showcasing all of the stone carvings that had been over a period of about a year."
“Loven Ramos and Don Protasio were involved as well because it was in that transition period before Don left and I took over and so Loven had this great idea to do a garden. It was really a very, very nice exhibition so we had gravel in the centre of the Art Lounge and plants and paths and then there was sculptures dotted around. It was quite special,” she says.
Constable also nominated Eric Raisina’s show earlier this year: “That was something else altogether. Eric’s show was a big, big show, and it went very well. It was extremely well attended and people seemed to really enjoy themselves. I’ve heard from many that it was the best fashion show that they’ve ever seen in Cambodia, which is good to know. We set the stage with that one.”
Don Protasio says: “During my time, we really transformed the whole place. One time we flooded it, during the Bill Bensley exhibit, we had roots and branches of trees coming out from the ceiling. During Em Riem’s time, we changed all the lights to red so when people came in at the evening, everything was red. That time was really exciting.”
Vincent Brouslet says: “Every opening here was always very nice, people don’t forget that, when there is an opening people come to see art there’s a really great moment, that makes it really popular. And then it’s a place that is talked about.”
Don Protasio: “I don’t know how great an impact De La Paix was. We’ll only know after several years, but I think that would be the legacy that the space has brought about in the art scene here in Cambodia. Definitely helped a lot of the artists and it’s such a shame it will disappear because it’s such a great space.”
Sasha Constable: “End of an era… I hope Hyatt decide to keep a strong link with arts because this particular hotel and space has really built a big reputation on that and it seems a shame to lose that completely.”