Rosewood Phnom Penh’s 20 Eyes on the Royal Ballet 2020 Exhibition

Phnom Penh: Rosewood Phnom Penh is proud to present ‘20 Eyes on the Royal Ballet 2020’, a multidisciplinary exhibition that pays tribute to the ancient yet evolving Royal Ballet of Cambodia by bringing together 10 local and international artists to share their personal interpretations not only of the ballet’s intrinsic beauty and grace but also its deep significance in Khmer culture.

The resulting artwork immerses visitors in the sophisticated, highly symbolic world of Cambodian classic dance via evocative paintings, illustrations, photography, and sculptures alongside rare masks, costumes and crowns on loan from the royal family. As the first of its kind in Cambodia, the landmark exhibition will place at the hotel’s 35th-floor Rosewood Phnom Penh Art Gallery from March 3 to June 30, 2020.

“Rosewood Phnom Penh is honored to present ‘20 Eyes on the Royal Ballet 2020’ in celebration of the most influential and meaningful art form in Cambodian culture,” said Michael Parker, managing director of Rosewood Phnom Penh. “As part of our A Sense of Place philosophy, the exhibition offers visitors a chance to experience the incredible beauty of the ballet through the lens of 10 different artists who employ wide-ranging styles, from sketching and silkscreens to street art and careful reproductions of extinct Khmer instruments that were created by a music archeologist based on Angkor Wat’s ancient bas-relief sculptures.”

The pride of the nation

Named an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO World Heritage in 2003, the Royal Ballet is a quintessential element of Khmer identity. For more than a millennium, the ballet has connected Cambodians across every province, telling the country’s collective story through mythological poetry, symbolic and precise dance gestures, ornate costumes covered in semi-precious gems, and deeply moving music.

Once reserved for the royal court, the Royal Ballet represents the height of sophistication and spirituality; classical Khmer dancers, in particular, are considered the archetype of elegance and aesthetics, leaving guests spellbound by their radiance and grace as they perform highly technical movements that take decades of intense training and dedication to master.

Diverse and dynamic interpretations

Under the patronage of the Norodom Buppha Devi Charity Association, represented by HRH Prince Sisowath Tesso, Rosewood Phnom Penh invited 10 local and international artists to capture the beauty, brilliance, and profound cultural meaning of the Royal Ballet – offering each full creative freedom to play and experiment.

Amongst the local talents on display, Suos Sodavy presents delicate drawings that reflect the spirit of Khmer culture, while acclaimed Cambodian painter Chhim Sothy showcases abstract paintings of mythological dancers in explosive colors.

Born in the southern province of Kampot, Din Art focuses on the captivating classical dancers who bring the Royal Ballet to life, and self-taught artist Chanton Tep creates unexpected depictions of resplendent Apsara dancers in a Cubist style. Sot Serey, also known as Soben, is a prominent Cambodian graphic designer and illustrator who depicts traditional classical Khmer dances using surprising digital techniques.

The exhibition will also feature intricate hand-printed silkscreens and a screen-printing workshop by Phnom Penh-based studio Heartwork, and stunning photography by Swedish photographer Anders Jiras, who has spent decades documenting Cambodian dance forms. Adding to the diverse set of perspectives, Canadian-Cambodian street artist FONKi, who is thought to have pioneered urban art in Cambodia, will capture the Royal Ballet’s majesty with his edgy, graphic style.

As a complement to the experimental artwork, Rosewood Phnom Penh Art Gallery will also feature historic archives compiled by the late George Groslier – a celebrated artist, author, and architect who designed the National Museum of Cambodia and founded the School of Cambodian Arts – and fascinating orchestral artifacts by music archaeologist Patrick Kersalé. To honor of the ballet, Kersalé will share his collection of extinct instruments from the 7th to the 16th centuries – all of which he recreated based on 30 years of archeological and anthropological studies in Cambodia.

Rosewood Phnom Penh’s ‘20 Eyes on the Royal Ballet 2020’ exhibition is dedicated to the late Her Royal Highness Princess Norodom Buppha Devi who passed away at the end of 2019. The Princess was a major supporter of the arts, not only serving as the previous director of the Royal Ballet of Cambodia but also a talented dancer who captivated Cambodia – on and off the stage.

Photo by: Supplied