National Museum hosts ‘lost art’ exhibit

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The new exhibition will run for two weeks and features photos of artworks that have since been lost or destroyed. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Department of Fine Arts and Handicrafts at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts will hold a two-week exhibition of photographic archives of lost paintings. Held under the theme “Life of the Buddha” from November 18-30, they will be displayed at the exhibition hall of the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

The exhibition will be open to the public, so they can express their support for the preservation of the Kingdom’s ancient paintings. They could be easily damaged or lost if not cared for, said the department.

Department director Chhim Sothy, himself a veteran artist, said the photographs are of paintings on the life of Buddha from three pagodas in Kandal province. The paintings were lost in 2020 and 2021.

“I took photographs of 50 or 60 paintings, but due to the limited display space, have selected 36 for the exhibition,” he told The Post on November 15.

“Some photos were taken in 2020, when I photographed the ‘Jatakas’ at Ta Ek pagoda in Khsach Kandal district’s Ta Ek commune,” he said in reference to the tales of former lives of Buddha.

“The pagoda has since collapsed into the river due to the erosion of the river bank. The remaining photographs are of paintings which were kept at Wat Traing in Ta Ek commune, and at the Prek Samrong pagoda in Takhmao town commune’s Prek Samrong village. All of these paintings have since been scratched and damaged,” he added.

The exhibition of these lost paintings aims to arouse the interest of the general public – especially the younger generation of Cambodians, so that they will recognise the majesty of the Kingdom’s traditional art forms and contribute to protecting their cultural heritage.

“The ancient Khmer paintings remain on the walls and ceilings of many temples and monasteries, most of which are taken from the Jatakas. I would like to send a message to all Cambodian people, especially the youngest of them: Please help to preserve the cultural heritage of these ancient paintings. Do not neglect them,” added Sothy.