Phnom Penh’s Java Cafe inaugurated a soft opening on Saturday of its first space to be solely meant for art exhibitions rather than combining art displays and food service.
This new J Gallery, which is located in a small building behind Java Cafe on Sihanouk Blvd, reflects Phnom Penh’s art market development over the past few years and its future potential, said Java Cafe owner Dana Langlois.
“With these things, its kind of ‘you build it and they will come,’” she said Saturday. “What’s important for all of us in Cambodia is that more than one exhibition space has to develop.”
“There have been more activities in the arts, especially contemporary art, with more galleries opening. And that’s good for all of us because the more there is here, the more people are attracted to come and the more interest develops in the country’s art scene: People will come here for the works instead of exporting a few pieces by three or four artists,” she said.
The J Gallery will be dedicated to established Cambodian and Southeast Asian artists, while the original Java Cafe will be used for newer Cambodian artists as well as foreign artists, Ms Langlois said. As for the ground level cafe, it will exhibit works from Java’s inventory and serve for special events such as video-art presentations and “open-mike” evenings with featured poetry reading or music shows and a time period for people wishing to perform, she said.
Ms Langlois, who virtually launched Phnom Penh’s commercial art scene of curated shows and opening nights a decade ago, has held nearly 100 exhibitions since 2000—at the time, only the French Cultural Center and the Reyum Gallery held a few exhibitions per year as part of their institutional programs.
Over the years, an interest in buying art in Phnom Penh has developed in the country, and people in other parts of Asia also are starting to notice Cambodia’s contemporary art, although these are early days yet, Ms Langlois said.
Still, she said, “I do believe that the market will develop, and I think we will see one day people flying in to buy works from Cambodian artists.”