Phnom Penh, ASEAN New Contemporary Art Destination

Phnom Penh is at the centre of an amazing exhibition in Lille, Northern France, showing the incredible creativity of the art scene of the Cambodian capital. The exhibition is to be seen until January 17 in Hospice Comtesse Museum, a medieval structure located in the heart of Lille Old Town. The exhibition is a great way to promote Phnom Penh in a renewed vision: far from Phnom Penh cliches or icons -Royal Palace, Wat Phnom, Central Market and smiling kids, the city is shown as a dynamic young metropolis where artists can express their hopes, aspirations and also their fears of the past, present and future.

Phnom Penh today experiences an uncontrolled, unstoppable mutation amid real estate speculation, which is remodeling the city. Its threatened architectural heritage – colonial architecture and modernist buildings from the 60s-are now confronted to new, mostly charmless towers and massive infrastructure.

Phnom Penh’s quest towards “modernity” however triggers an emerging art scene with many young talents. Home and fashion designers, painters, sculptors, cineasts, photographers are to be seen in many corners of the fast expanding city. It is a remarkable evolution, especially in a country where arts are teached in a very traditional -sometimes old fashioned- way.

Artists express increasingly these contrasts and Phnom Penh starts to become a new centre of contemporary arts in all forms. Emerging from years of turmoils and of one of the world’s most horrific genocide, young generations of artists express their hope for a better future but often continue to refer or integrate a heavy tragic history. They are still confronted to the Khmer Rouge survivors and the post-Pol Pot generation who grew up in the shadow of a Vietnamese-supported government. These mixed feeling foster curiosity, boldness, rebellion and innovation.

This turns Phnom Penh art scene as probably of the most vibrant within ASEAN. And it gives an opportunity to promote differently the capital city and turn it into an exciting destination. Lille exhibition is a perfect ambassador of Phnom Penh new exciting times, presenting some 20 artists including Cambodia three internationally acclaimed artists Sopheap Pich, Rithy Panh and Leang Seckon.

The video serves as an introduction to Phnom Penh exhibition