The 11th century temple of Angkor Wat became the cornerstone of Georges Coedes’ 1948 theory of the Hinduization of Southeast Asia while it also stood as the most prized possession of the French colonial empire, revered, reproduced and subject to countless scientific, archaeological and numerical studies. This paper will examine the impact that the preferential treatment Cambodian art received during the colonial period has had on the writing of Southeast Asian Art History.  It focus on two main issues: the favoring of ancient religious stone statuary over contemporary popular or folk art, and by extension, modern art, and for another the fetishization of Angkor as a site of civilizational discourse.


'Contemporary Art in Cambodia: A Historical Inquiry' was a one-day academic symposium with renowned scholars, curators, and artists. Some have argued that Cambodia has emerged from a post-conflict society into an era of social, economic, and political transformation. This symposium focused on a dimension of its cultural transformation as it has been manifested in a burgeoning contemporary arts scene within the last decade. Through inquiries into broader artistic, cultural, and aesthetic practices, various scholars and arts practitioners spoke to historical trajectories of contemporary art practice in Cambodia and its positioning in narratives of art history. By building a critical dialogue that interrogates the way the field is being shaped, the symposium aims to strengthen the foundation for more thorough investigations into Cambodia’s recent art historical developments.

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Panel I: Cambodia, Axis of the Southeast Asian Universe: Reflections on Art Historiography of the Region