Festival manager Tiani Chillemi likes to sum up “Angkor Art Explo” in numbers: two cities, 23 events, 17 exhibitions involving 25 Cambodian artists and 24 foreign artists over three weeks.
Oh, and a 175-km road trip in the countryside.
The festival started in Battambang City on Saturday night with a big riverside party for the public, complete with musicians from the art school Phare Ponleu Selpak, performances by the BDB break-dance group, and the participation of Cambodian DJ Mojo and Australian DJ Paradise Nights.
It will end with another party on Nov 19 in Siem Reap, which will conclude eight days of activities throughout that city.
And as the festival moves from one city to the other, a convoy of 23 people, half of them artists, will cycle from Battambang City to Siem Reap City, stopping several times along the way to meet with villagers and hold various art “happenings.”
Villagers outside cities have few opportunities to see what Cambodian contemporary artists do, and this will give them the chance to meet artists as well as see their work, explained artist Mao Soviet, who will be part of the convoy.
The idea of holding “Angkor Art Explo” came up a year ago, when David “Jam” Ramjattan of the Art Deli in Siem Reap City, who is a keen cyclist, suggested an art bicycle trip between the two cities, he said.
Battambang artists loved the idea, Mr Ramjattan said. Since they would be gathering for the ride, he proposed holding art events at both their departure point and destination, hence the two-city festival, he said.
One year of planning and hard work later, the launching party took place Saturday in Battambang City.
This was followed last night with the opening of the first exhibition of the festival at Mr Soviet’s gallery Make Maek gallery. There will be events every night this week at several locations in Battambang City, including the Sammaki Gallery, Phare and Gallery Sala Vichearlai.
The art road trip will leave Battambang City on Nov 5, and the Siem Reap City festival will begin Nov 12.
So far, the reaction of the public has been enthusiastic, said Darren Swallow, who launched Sammaki Gallery in Battambang as an artists’ meeting place earlier this year.
There were about 500 people at the Saturday night party—a large crowd for Battambang City—and about four paintings by Cambodian artists were sold prior to the official opening last night, he said.
The organizers’ goal is to inspire artists to produce exciting works and put on a good festival for both tourists and locals, he said. “There’s not enough of this sort of thing in Battambang,” he added.