Phnom Penh gallery set to host inaugural Cambodian urban art auction

By: Madeleine Keck - Posted on: September 8, 2017 | Cambodia

Organisers hope the charity auction on Sunday will boost interest in local artists and help establish the capital as a regional art hub

Rebirth by FONKI

There are a handful of Cambodian artists who have achieved global acclaim in recent years, but it’s a short list. The K-Bach Gallery in Phnom Penh is trying to show the world that the Kingdom is full of talent, and valuable artworks.

The gallery is teaming up with Princess Ermine Norodom, who runs the foundation Shanty Town Spirit, for a charity art auction at the Sofitel hotel in Phnom Penh in which 20 pieces by 11 renowned local and foreign artists will go under the hammer.

Money raised from the event will go to Shanty Town Spirit, which works to help communities make sustainable improvements to their lives, with participating artists including FONKI, Chifumi, Peap Tarr and Theo Vallier. Works up for sale consist of a diverse assortment of styles and motifs, varying from spray-painted street murals to sculptures made from rusty metal.

K-Bach Gallery owner Tony Francis said a growing appreciation of the art coming out of Cambodia’s urban centres inspired him to open the gallery earlier in the year.

“Urban art is exploding all across the world – in fact urban art is probably the most exciting form and fastest growing form of contemporary art in the world today,” said London-born Francis, adding that the increase of urban art being seen on Cambodian city walls, clothes, in schools and restaurants was a testament to both increasing talent and rising demand for it.

“In terms of the Cambodian urban art scene – the rebirth has been both inspiring and amazing and it’s in no small part down to the hard work and determination of both local and international artists here in Cambodia,” he said.

Daniel Rathmony Ou, a veteran Phnom Penh street artist and founder of street fashion brand Omens, is putting one of his works up for charity for the first time. Francis has called on Ou to act as a mentor to up-and-coming artists at the studio in order to develop the artistic community.

“It’s very hard for artists coming up. They feel shy, they feel like their work is not good enough to be around me or others,” Ou said at a press conference for the auction yesterday.  

“Everyone starts somewhere and it’s important for us, those who are instigating the scene, to just really be like parents to them.”

Sofitel’s general manager Charles-Henri Chevet said he was delighted to be part of efforts to make Phnom Penh’s art scene a selling point for visitors to the capital.

“The development of urban art is testament to the speed of which the city is changing,” Chevet said. “We’re very proud to host this event which will promote these passionate urban artists as well as raise funds for the Shanty Town Project.”

Ou said that at the end of the day, he was proud to have have his art contribute to social change.

“If I’m successful I can come back to the community and say – hey look, I did this stuff,” he said. “It’s possible to have your own journey and change your community by just being yourself, by helping people with your art.”