Best known for its spectacular complex of temples around Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s premier tourism destination Siem Reap has an art and culture scene to be reckoned with, and one that’s ever on the rise.
While just a few years back concern were rife at the speed with which the city’s galleries were shutting their doors, these days our tiny little temple town is thankfully once again home to a wealth of visit-worthy collections of art. These are some of our favourite Siem Reap art galleries.
Headed up by Californian Eiming Jung, described by the Phnom Penh Post as being someone ‘who arguably knows Siem Reap better than it knows him’, 111 East has only been open since late 2016, and yet has already earned its rightful plane on the Siem Reap art scene.
In turn describing itself as ‘more than just a gallery’, 111 East is a spot centred on the extensive collection of teakwood carvings amassed by the venue’s co-owner and former resident of Chiang Mai, in neighbouring Thailand. That’s combined with an eclectic mix of modern art, and – as if things weren’t already inviting enough – a bar serving classic cocktails, and with both indoor and atmospheric al fresco seating. As well as rotating exhibitions and installations, expect live readings, performance pieces, and music sets.
Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-11pm; Old Market Bridge; 095-930-090; www.111eastgallery.com
American photographer John McDermott has been visiting Siem Reap since the mid-1990s, originally attracted by a total solar eclipse that we wanted to see occur over Angkor Wat, and has travelled extensively in Southeast Asia while producing work on ancient temples and cultural heritage sites.
As well as remaining an active photographer and having his work on permanent display at Phnom Penh’s National Museum, he has in the meantime founded three galleries in Siem Reap dedicated to Cambodian and Asia-based artists, the first of which was the sleek, eponymous McDermott Gallery at the city’s Foreign Correspondents Club.
Aside from the work of others, McDermott’s own moody shots of the Siem Reap’s famous Angkor Wat ruins offer another perspective on, and only add to the experience of visiting, the temples themselves.
Daily, 12pm-8pm; Pokambor Avenue; 012-274-274; www.mcdermottgallery.com
This wooden house and lush tropical garden is the home and living gallery and workshop of Cambodian artist and designer Lim Muy Theam, born in the southern province of Takeo nine years before the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.
After seeking refuge and pursuing the arts in Paris, he returned to Cambodia to discover his motherland’s art and culture, he later founded Theam’s House as a way to showcase local talent and pass on his own learning and experiences to a new generation of Cambodian artists. The rooms of Theam’s House are home to his own pieces and those that form part of the collection he has amassed over the years, and include a range of artisan products that make for lovely souvenirs of a visit to Siem Reap.
Daily, 8am-9pm; Phum Veal Village; 078-208-161; www.theamshouse.com
Update: Full Frontal is now closed.
Another new addition to the local creative scene, and another Siem Reap art venue to combine that very much Baby-Elephant-approved formula of gallery and bar, Full Frontal is headed by Jessica Lim, a prominent name in the local Angkor Photo Festival.
Full Frontal also hosts poetry sessions, and is home to a collection of work by contemporary artists from Cambodia, wider Southeast Asia, and elsewhere.
Monday to Saturday, 10am-10pm; Achar Sva Street; 095-930-090; www.facebook.com/fullfrontalgallery
The 1961 Coworking & Art Space
This innovative and suitably stylishly designed venue takes a hybrid approach that sees it double up as an art gallery, coworking spot, and event space. The 1961’s art gallery side feature exhibitions showcasing the work of both local and international talent and covering a wide range of art genres.
A welcome addition to the Siem Reap creative scene, it’s a modern, fresh and every bit living venue that’s doing an admirable job of connecting with and becoming a part of the local community.
Daily, 7am-10pm; 211 Osaphear Street; 087-539-181; www.the1961.com
Where to stay in Siem Reap
Looking for a Siem Reap hotel from which to explore the best art galleries that Siem Reap has to offer, while also being within easy reach of the famous Angkor Wat temples? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast and use of our gorgeous swimming pool.
Which of these Siem Reap art galleries is your favourite? Let us know which spots we should include on our list – leave us a comment below!
Photos by 111 East, McDermott Gallery, Theam’s House, Full Frontal, The 1961 Coworking & Art Space, and Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel.