Newly opened gallery Romeet, with its focus on displaying Cambodian artworks, is aiming to be a meeting point for artists and Cambodian audiences in Phnom Penh.
Opened by Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), the Battambang-based NGO, Romeet intends to support both current and former students of fine arts at PPS.
“It’s important to have a base in Phnom Penh because a lot of artists come from Phare Ponleu Selpak, so there is a need for them to showcase their artworks here,” gallery manager Khenory Sok said.
According to Khenory Sok, Romeet will exhibit contemporary arts rather than traditional paintings because there are many galleries already exhibiting the latter.
One of the challenges facing the space is that even though Romeet is aiming to entice Cambodians by exhibiting Khmer artists’ works, the people who buy them are mostly expatriates.
“It is strange that we show Cambodian artworks but only expatriates and tourists come to see and buy them,” said Khenory Sok.
Recalling her childhood in France, Khenory Sok said that her parents would often take her to museums and galleries in an attempt to teach her how important culture is. It is a situation she hopes to foster in Cambodia as well.
“For normal Cambodians, it might be expensive to buy the artworks but it is free to sit at the gallery and [people can] walk around as it is open to everyone,” she said. “I want them to come often and see what is happening; how the art is changing and how artists are evolving.”
To attract young Khmers, Romeet also provides workshops for people who are interested in learning how to draw and paint. It has recently opened up to children from 2pm to 5pm, five days a week, and classes for older artists-in-the-making are yet to be launched.
In the future, Romeet will encourage its artists to run workshops in schools in order to explain the basics of painting to the students, and give them an insight into what the artists want to convey.
“I think it’s important for education, and if they get used to seeing and evaluating art when they are young, they will understand better,” Khenory Sok said.