Batia Sarem owners Lyvann Loeuk and Yves Zlotowski with artist Sovan Philong and gallery manager Martin Phéline.
The art scene in Cambodia is a wild frontier that is wide open for all kinds of galleries. When Batia Sarem Contemporary Art Gallery opened in Siem Reap in early 2019 it was self-evident the role they had chosen to take. They planted themselves squarely as a gallery that would adhere to the timeless tenets of placing special emphasis on the curation and historical/cultural aspects of the artists they chose to exhibit.
Believing that the gallerist should be the premier expert on any artist they represent and that an artist needs to fully investigate an idea in an entire space, they committed to transforming their building so space could change with each exhibition and utilize technology so the viewers could interact with the works represented. Each exhibition includes a beautifully designed book introducing the artist’s work and the management exercises solid curatorial skills in researching, interpreting, managing, messaging and delivering events and floor talks.
Batia Sarem Gallery is the culmination of a project which Lyvann Loeuk and Yves Zlotowski have been developing for three years. Three years of coming and going between France and Cambodia, three years of exciting discussions, as well as doubts and sleepless nights. It all began when we met in the Saint-Germain-des-Près neighbourhood, where our two galleries are located only a few metres away from each other. Friendship, a shared passion for Cambodia, the pleasure of discovering works by Cambodian contemporary artists resulted in this space, which is opening its doors in December 2018 in the centre of Siem Reap.
We will host a demanding program of exhibitions at Batia Sarem Gallery, thought it will remain a welcoming place. We have made it our mission to show only artists and works we like, which we would collect ourselves. We want to apply the same standards we have applied in France. Not because we have any pretensions, but because we want to show the works under the best possible exhibition and conservation conditions. We also want to produce a catalogue for each exhibition, a essential element in order to keep track of the memory of the artists.
For us, Siem Reap is a gateway from where we can take the works to collectors in Asia, Europe or elsewhere, via art fairs, gallery or museum exhibitions. But we must not forget that this space will be open to Cambodians: to the artists of course, but also students, children, passers-by…
The name pays tribute to the memory of two women whose coming together is an embodiment of our gallery. Batia, Yves’s maternal grandmother, who escaped anti-Semitism in Poland – the horrors of which she never forgot – for Israel. Sarem, Lyvann’s paternal grandmother, a woman dedicated to the arts, a professor of classical ballet who perished in the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. Let their spirits watch over this space. Through them, most importantly, it is our parents we are thinking of by opening Batia Sarem.
Lyvann Loeuk and Yves Zlotowski
Head Mask by artist Khvay Samnang and worn by dancer Rady Nget.
Since its opening Batia Sarem has produced three exhibitions and each was meticulously designed and curated. They opened with Home, lost and found, an exhibition of works by Svay Sareth and Yim Maline – combining the very different approaches to the couple’s art. Sareth’s work seeks disruption and disturbance, while Maline’s images seem to seek reconciliation.
Their second exhibition represented two projects by Khvay Samnang: Preah Kunlong and Where is My Land. These explorations involved film, dance by Rady Nget, and woven masks – all questioning powerful issues regarding animism, Cambodia’s environment and the disappearance of traditions.
Their most recent exhibition is ongoing and confrontationally explores identity in the photography of Sovan Philong in How Do I Look?
The gallery is re-designed for each exhibition with the awareness that focusing upon internal self-learning through time and space and the ability to create processes of dimensional imagining, personal reflection, and investigative self-discourse was the desired viewer’s experience.
They are fully aware that they are taking their visitors and patrons on a journey.
Batia Sarem is raising the bar in Cambodia by dedicating themselves to sound curatorial discipline, thoughtful design of space and content, and documenting artists’ work with grounded awareness of history, art, and presentation.
This is no small challenge but Lyvann Loeuk, Yves Zlotowsk, and Martin Phéline seem to be up to meeting it head-on.