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Contemporary collection showcases Khmer contemporary art

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Art collector and veteran expat Larry Strange’s exhibition of works from his personal collection opened at SaSa Art Project on August 24. SUPPLIED

Contemporary collection showcases Khmer contemporary art

Larry Strange has spent almost 20 years collecting works from well-known local artists before exhibiting his collection as “Ti Prasap: The Larry Strange Cambodia Collection" at Sa Sa Art Projects along with the second edition of the collection catalogue.

Larry, who was executive director of the Cambodia Development Resource Institute for 10 years between 2003 and 2014, has lived in the Kingdom since 2003 and collected Khmer art since 2004. He has since then worked as a policy analyst at Cambodian law firm Sok Xing & Hwang and currently is also board chairman at “Teach For Cambodia” – a partner of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and a member of the global Teach For All network.

Prior to his arrival in Cambodia, he was director of the Asia-Australia Institute at the University of New South Wales for 10 years.

The first edition of his collection, and associated catalogue, was shown at the Ti Prasap – which means ‘confluence’ in English – exhibition at the Treeline Urban Resort in Siem Reap province in 2019.

The current show of more recent acquisitions includes work by Royal University of Fine Arts graduates and those who developed their skills through the Phare Ponleu Selpak School in Battambang province, Sa Sa Art Projects’ training programme for young artists, and Open Studio Cambodia.

The exhibition catalogue quotes Larry as saying, “I began buying artwork in 2004. I didn’t know at the time that I was not just buying works of art that I loved, but was curating an art collection.”

“I also did not expect that the first artists I bought from – such as Pich Sopheap, Leang Seckon and Khvay Samnang – would become famous artists in the international market about a decade later and also become my friends,” he said.

Although the pieces in his expanding collection do not provide a complete overview of contemporary art in Cambodia, there is enough depth to provide a clear snapshot.

As the Ti Prasap catalogue notes, the artists in this collection showcase the building of a community of generations of artists, through training and the educational institutions, that have sharpened their artwork, as well as their individual contributions to the field.

“When we think of Ti Prasap, when we think of Cambodian art, we should think of the Chaktomuk River, where the strength of the four rivers intersects and brings life back together. That is what makes Phnom Penh a special place that is still in the process of being born and constantly changing. It’s the same as contemporary art in Cambodia, which is slowly moving, but full of energy,” writes Vuth Lyno, Artistic Director of Sa Sa Art Projects, in his Ti Prasap catalogue essay on the development of Cambodian contemporary art.

The Ti Prasap catalogue and associated exhibition underline the importance of the commitment and constant growth of the artists and cultural leaders who have changed and built each other. The way they connect and inspire each other from generation to generation, means their work and community have met at one intersection.

“The Ti Prasap collection is a very important celebration of Cambodian contemporary artists and their work, most of which were only completed through the overcoming of serious obstacles. It is also a celebration of their pride in their work and the friendship I have with them,” says Larry.

The exhibition runs from August 24 to September 23 at Sa Sa Art Projects in Phnom Penh.

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