The Penh Art Fair 2021 has officially kicked-off at FT Gallery, with the soft opening held in early June. This year’s fair showcases around 100 works from 36 local and international artists.
This is the first edition of the Penh Art Fair, but the organisers plan to continue to hold it each year going forward. Artists submit their work to The Fair through an open call audition process and the jury then selects the artworks to be exhibited.
Miguel Jeronimo, one of The Fair’s organisers, said: “We designed the open call to allow every artist – Cambodian or international – to submit their artworks, and the works selected by our jury from the open call went into the exhibition.”
There were 80 applicants who sent artwork for the open call and a jury of five artists and curators then voted.
This year’s jury members were Sopheap Pich, a Khmer artist who has exhibited his art worldwide; Chhim Sothy, a Khmer painter who also works at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts; Meta Moeng, a young curator; Vuth Lyno, an artist, curator and one of the leaders of the Sasa Art Projects gallery; and Erick Gonzalez, an artist from Guatemala based in Phnom Penh.
“Our jury followed the criteria of trying to select artworks with powerful ideas, beautiful execution, innovative techniques and concepts related to contemporary issues.
“They selected 36 artists – more than half of them Cambodian – but also international artists from 11 different countries, and all of them exhibiting for the first time together in a big celebration of art and creativity,” Jeronimo told The Post.
A black and white etching depicting a group of Rohingya walking across a field was voted best in the show.
“The top voted artwork is called Long Walk Home and it touches on the hardship and challenges faced by the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. It’s by a Bangladeshi artist named Fawaz Rob,” said Jeronimo.
The Penh Art Fair, originally planned for March then delayed due to Covid-19 restrictions, is now running from June 5 through June 27.
The event will see established and emergent contemporary artists expressing their original ideas through various mediums such as installations, video, photography, digital art, contemporary painting and performance art.
In addition to the artworks selected by the jury for display from local and international artists, there are distinguished guest artists whose work is in the show by invitation such as Sopheap Pich, Sothea Thang, Anida Ali, Chov Theanly, Thor Vutha, Chhim Sothy and Sao Sreymao.
Jeronimo, a Phnom Penh-based photographer, said that his friend Erick Gonzalez, another of the organizers of The Fair and its chief curator, was presenting a sculpture along with a video addressing the topics of balance and equilibrium.
Many different topics and various themes are present throughout the exhibition, with the artists given free rein to express whatever they’d like.
Dakota Gizard, a French photographer, uses the windows of the train as her frame to take in the vast landscapes and picturesque scenes of Cambodian life along the Phnom Penh-Takeo railway.
Rails Window has ten 31 x 41cm photos taken from the same train window, in addition to a collection of 48 miniature photos.
“Her camera embarks on a journey where the pictures multiply and follow one another at train speed, to reveal themselves only afterwards, once the crossing is over,” according to the catalogue description.
Some themes featured prominently at The Fair and seemed to have captured the zeitgeist felt by the artists, such as gender and the role of women in society, the environment and the trade-offs involved with development and social issues dealt with by some of the most underprivileged members of society such as migrants and refugees.
“I’m presenting a sound installation called Home related to the dilemmas faced by Cambodian migrants who had to return home during 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Jeronimo.
Sao Sreymao, a graphic artist and painter from Battambang province, is taking part in The Fair as a guest artist.
She has shown her artworks at past exhibitions including Day Dream by Khmer Sense; Body of Sorrow by Sa Sa Art Projects; and Facing the Climate Change at the Ministry of Environment of Cambodia.
“I’ve thought up a performance called Depress and we think that I will do it on June 12, but I’m not sure if it’s completely finished yet or if we still need to make changes,” said Sreymao, mentioning that she had done something similar on her YouTube Channel called Pressure.
Entry is free of charge but visitors need to book a tour in advance and follow the safety guidelines required by the Ministry of Health for the prevention of Covid-19.
“We’re doing visits by appointment to be able to limit the capacity to 15 people max inside the gallery at any given time. You can book your tour using our online form,” Jeronimo said.
The Penh Art Fair is being held at the FT Gallery in the Factory Phnom Penh Artspace and it is open from 10:00am–6:00pm from Tuesday to Saturday and on Sundays 10:00am–1:00pm and 3:00pm–6:00pm. The Fair is closed on Mondays.
“Mask wearing is mandatory, as is use of hand sanitiser, a temperature check at the entry and QR-code scanning too. Social distancing is easy to accomplish since the gallery is ventilated and has a vast area for people to spread out in,” said Jeronimo.
Jeronimo said that when the Covid-19 situation improves and it is safe to organise events again, they plan to host some live performances and hold some talks on the nature of contemporary art.
For more information, visit Penh Art’s Facebook page: @PenhArtFair. Or contact them via email: [email protected]. To book a tour of The Penh Art Fair, follow this link: https://forms.gle/8DG3nSWHXbLu12rt5