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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

‘Gods of Angkor’ Exhibit Bids America Goodbye

On the metro platform, in Washington DC, a billboard highlights the “Gods of Angkor” exhibit.

It ran for more than a year, a collection of Cambodian bronze sculptures from the Angkorian period. On loan from the National Museum of Cambodia, the collection drew thousands of museum-goers, first to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washington, and more recently at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California.

But now the exhibit is on its way home, its run at the Getty having ended Aug. 14.

The project began with talks between the Smithsonian and the National Museum of Cambodia, said Jeffery Weaver, associate curator of sculptures and decorative arts at the Getty. That led to a Getty foundation grant to train conservators for the sculptures in Camboida, but went further when organizers decided to highlight the bronzes in the US.

As a result, the bronzes have been here since May 2010, and in Los Angeles, near the Cambodian community in Long Beach, they received a warm welcome and send-off.

The collection spurred a conference on the conservation of art, brief courses on Cambodian culture, art, religion and food, and a festival that included the US-based rock band Dengue Fever.

The very last gallery course was called “The Glory of Angkor,” set up by the Norton Simon Museum, which houses a permanent collection of Khmer art, and the Getty. The first part of the course taught the history of Hindu and Buddhist art in Southeast Asia. The second went into detail of the Angkor kingdom.

As student walked through the Getty gallery on a recent weekend, they were given details on each sculpture’s historic details, its value to the Angkorian period and its conservation history.

Rod-ari, who taught the double-weekend course, said she wanted students “to recognize how important Angkor Wat is to the art history and the culture of Cambodia.”

In her lecture, she also focused on the importance of mountain temples in Khmer religious architecture.

Those who attended the course said it helped them understand more about Cambodia. And the Getty’s Weaver said, now that the exhibit is gone, he’s looking forward to more in the future.
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