A rtists from the Phare Ponleu Seplak school in Battambang now have the opportunity to market their work directly to international buyers, following the opening of the school’s Romeet Gallery in Phnom Penh on Friday night.
More than 150 artists and art-lovers attended a launch party on Friday night, featuring circus performances and live painting, with the night going “perfectly”, according to gallery manager Kate O’Hara.
O’Hara told the Post that Phare Ponleu Seplak decided to open a gallery in Phnom Penh so it’s students can gain more international exposure and access the overseas art market.
“In Phnom Penh the art scene right now is really active, there’s a lot of international interest and that’s focused in Phnom Penh, not in Battambang. There’s that saying, ‘if something won’t come to you, you go to it,’ and that’s what this is. [Romeet] will be a launching pad for artists from Battambang to broaden their networks, to connect with international artists and make people look seriously at artists from Battambang.”
Held in conjunction with the already established Top Art Gallery, Rommet’s launch party also kicked off the gallery’s first exhibition, which features the work of Phare Ponleu Seplak alumni including Sin Rithy, Pen Robit, and Nov Cheanick.
Founded in 1994 by Khuon Det and a group of fellow artists after they were repatriated to Battambang from a refugee camp on the Thai border, Phare Ponleu Seplak, or “The Brightness of Arts,” has built up a reputation as one of Cambodia’s premiere art schools.
O’Hara said artists trained by the school often develop distinctive personal styles that set them apart from those trained elsewhere.
“The subject of their work is different from artists in Phnom Penh. There’s a real personal investigation into psychology, and a real empathy towards subjects in their work. Young artists who learned in the refugee camps started Phare Ponleu Seplak, so it’s a different experience to what Phnom Penh artists are looking at.”
While the gallery will also display work by artists who did not train at Ponleu Seplak, the key goal of Romeet is to establish a presence for Battambang artists in the capital.
O’Hara told the Post that with that in mind, Romeet has agreed to host three Cambodian Fashion Week shows later this month, including a runway show by designer Don Protasio and The Art of Fashion Exhibition, which kicks off Fashion Week on October 27.