Cambodian Artist Strikes a Nerve in London

The first solo exhibition by a Cambodian contemporary artist in London went far from unnoticed in the British capital’s art scene last week.

Not only was 39-year-old Leang Seckon interviewed on BBC radio and his exhibition listed as a must-see event in The Sunday Times but the Rossi & Rossi gallery holding the show in fashionable Mayfair sold 14 of his 20 works in two days.

With his larger pieces priced at $8,500 and his smaller pieces at $2,500, gallery owner Fabio Rossi wrote in an e-mail message Friday that Mr Seckon had been priced among the up and coming.

“I believe the prices of Seckon’s work are fair for an emerging artist: they are neither low or high and compare with other artists at similar point in their career, whether in Asia or in the West,” he said.

“What is particularly satisfying is not just the sales achieved but the critical success of the exhibition: We only had positive comments so far.”

Mr Seckon’s show, entitled “Heavy Skirt,” tells the story of Cambodia since the 1960s through the artist’s own life in a series of 10 multimedia works, 10 collages plus an installation consisting of a soldier carrying clothing and equipment from the various regimes’ armies.

It runs through April 29 at the gallery, which specializes in Himalayan and Asian art.

As far as Mr Rossi knew, this exhibition is the first one-man show by a Cambodian artist in London.

“I don’t think the fact that he is Cambodian is a reason for its success. I believe that it is based on merit,” he said, noting that the collectors who bought Mr Seckon’s works were “seasoned and experienced.”

“They would not just buy something because of the nationality of the artist,” he said.

More than 100 people attended the opening on March 31 and, by the time the gallery closed for the Easter weekend on Thursday night, six paintings and eight collages had been sold.

Mr Seckon was impressed by the fact that people who visited the show actually wanted to meet him rather than just say a quick hello, he said in a said by telephone from London on Friday.

“People liked that my work comes [from the pit of] my stomach, that the artwork and artist is together,” he said. “They said with some artists, the work is somewhere and the artist separate but my work is very connected to me.”

This is Mr Seckon’s first international one-man show, he said. Previous shows in the US, Hong Kong or Singapore had been group shows.

“London for me is very, very interesting: like opening the gate to the world.”

Before Mr Seckon left for London in late March the anticipation had already begun to build, according to Fleur Smith who assists the artist with logistics and accompanied him to London.

“He had a flurry of people coming to him [anticipating that] his work is about to really go through the roof in terms of price…. He still has a few things left in his gallery in Phnom Penh but a lot of his old work just went really quickly in the last week or two,” she said.

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