Top-dollar cultural appreciation

Heng Hang Ry’s showroom is an old colonial villa.
Heng Hang Ry’s showroom is an old colonial villa. Athena Zelandonii

Top-dollar cultural appreciation

A new high-end ornaments, furniture and traditional instruments shop on Street 178 is charging a big premium for what the owner claims is the finest quality workmanship in Cambodia.

Former interior designer Heng Hang Ry, 31, opened the Phnom Penh Fine Arts Center last week in a yellow French colonial villa that was once the residence of former Prime Minister Pen Nouth.

On display in the elegant showroom are finely carved tables and dressers, wooden bas relief panels, floral paintings and a variety of instruments like tro (a two-stringed fiddle), roneat (wooden xylophone) and ta khe (floor zither).

“We select the best quality of products from the best artists in Cambodia to put in the gallery, but it takes much time to make it and so the prices are higher,” said Hang Ry.

The ornaments include a 1.8-metre statue of a group of musicians that took one master craftsman and two former Royal University of Fine Arts students seven months to carve from beng wood and costs $25,000.

However, the most expensive item is a living room set made from a luxury wood called neang nuon. Including a lounge, table and chairs; it costs $40,000.

Hang Ry previously opened an interior design shop in 2010, but most people only wanted to buy his custom-designed sculptures and statues, he said.

“I launched the centre because I want to promote all Cambodian arts and crafts such as painting, sculpture, and old music instrument fabrication, as well as other rare trades made with an eye to perfection for the next generation,” said Hang Ry.

He said he was supporting Cambodia’s master craftsmen by providing fair prices and conditions.

“Most galleries won’t pay for quality worksmanship or don’t pay the craftsmen until the product is sold, so the artists have no money to make other products,” he said.

“Cambodian people are my target, and I do hope that Khmer people support their own products,” he added.

The Phnom Penh Fine Arts Center is located on Street 178 (behind the Royal University of Fine Arts). Tel: 012 222 551.

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