On 8 April 2018, the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) opened Angkor: Exploring Cambodia’s Sacred City, masterpieces of the Musée national des arts asiatique—Guimet. This 15 week show comprising of 141 works of art from the Guimet Museum, Paris has two major themes running through it. The first half tells the story of the “rediscovery” of Angkor by the French in the 19th century and the second half showcases the beauty of Khmer Art and the sophistication of the culture of Angkor.
One of the most pertinent curatorial challenges for the exhibition was to strike the right balance between acknowledging the French contribution to the scholarship and preservation of Angkor on the one hand, and the specific conditions under which this took place on the other – that is, as a colony of France. The 19th century colonial mentality framed the West’s understanding and representations of the Orient. The French at once exoticised and romanticised Angkor, as well as at times appropriating it to justify their colonial possessions and ambitions. How then should this mixed legacy be presented to a Singaporean audience?
The second part of the exhibition came with its own unique set of challenges. Designed to be a celebration of Khmer art, it comprises of over forty sculptures, many of which are life-size, carved in the round, stone sculptures of Hindu and Buddhist images, some of which could weigh almost a tonne. The installation was therefore a major technical and logistical operation. The second part of this talk will walk the audience through the entire process from the deinstallation in Paris, to their installation at ACM.
Senior Curator (Southeast Asia), Asian Civilisations Museum
STEPHEN A. MURPHY is Senior Curator for Southeast Asia at the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, and curator-in-charge for the Tang Shipwreck Gallery. He holds a PhD from the Department of History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS, University of London (2010). He specialises in the art and archaeology of early Buddhism and Hinduism in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia. He has a particular interest in the period spanning the 7th to 9th centuries AD and looks at trade and connections between Southeast Asian cultures and the wider world of Tang China, India and beyond.
He recently co-curated the special exhibition Angkor: Exploring Cambodia’s Sacred City, masterpieces of the Musée national des arts asiatique—Guimet (April 8th – July 22nd 2018). In 2016-17 he curated a special exhibition from the National Museums of Myanmar titled, Cities and Kings: Ancient Treasures from Myanmar (Dec. 5th 2016 – March 5th 2017). He is also co-editor, with Alan Chong, of, The Tang Shipwreck: Art and exchange in the 9th century (2017). He is co-editor of Before Siam: Essays in Art and Archaeology, (River Books & The Siam Society, 2014), and has contributed papers to leading academic journals such as Asian Perspectives, The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society and The Journal of Southeast Asian Studies.
Object Conservator, HCC
BERTA MAÑAS ALCAIDE works as an Object Conservator for the Heritage Conservation Centre (HCC) in Singapore. She was trained as a Conservator with a Bachelor Degree (1986-1991) and a Master’s Degree (2010-2012) in Spain, Madrid and Valencia respectively. She has a broad working experience as a conservator both for private companies and public institutions in Spain, England and more recently in Singapore.
Her fields of expertise are stone, mural painting, and polychrome/gilded wood and stone, alternating on-site conservation projects with laboratory based conservation works. In addition, she has combined conservation related work tasks with training of other conservators and the general public through short courses, talks and publications. She is currently in charge of developing a basic training program for Assistant Conservators at HCC.
Curator (Cross Culture), Asian Civilisations Museum, National Heritage Board
Clement joined the ACM in 2008 as an assistant curator for South Asia. He became curator of Cross-Cultural Art in 2010. He has curated exhibitions Hunters & Collectors (2009), Devotion & Desire: Cross-Cultural Art in Asia (2013), and most recently, Christianity in Asia (2016) and the new Trade galleries at the museum.
4TH June 2018
(Senior Curator, ACM)