The contemporary art scene in the capital is moving in leaps and bounds. Writer Kate Burbridge takes a look at one of the latest ambitious exhibitions that will help steer the art community in the right direction.

The latest exhibition to take over Java Café and Gallery will see the space transformed into a creative hub.

As a pioneer in Cambodia’s art scene, Java Arts has made it its mission to help promote the burgeoning arts community and provide it with a platform to showcase the diverse work being produced in the country.

Its latest exhibition is ambitious in both scale and concept. During March and April both floors of the Sihanouk Boulevard venue will be transformed into an extra-mural, quasi-museological space.

Directed by Java founder Dana Langlois and curated by artist-curator Reaksmey Yean, The Object(s) of Collecting invites Cambodian art collectors to share their love, passion, taste, and their stories by bringing cherished artworks together and exposing them collectively to the public gaze.

In a salon-like manner, the gallery walls and spaces will be populated by artworks from contemporary Cambodian artists representing diverse genres and praxes.

Instead of showcasing one artist, this exhibit turns the spotlight on the twin stars of the artworks and their owners, the binary system of the collected and the collectors.

By focusing on the collectors and their narratives and memories in such a way the exhibition effectively raises awareness and understanding of the collection, patronage and appreciation of art.

It is widely acknowledged in many fields of academic study that collecting is endemic to most cultures throughout the majority of their history. Even children practice collection as a means of self expression, creating small worlds upon which they can impose their desired order.

Collections give voice to a story, individual or collective, scientific or creative, private or public. This story often explores the notion of collecting as a way of defining identity of a wider community, a means of drawing a line around what is me or us and what is not. This is especially true within the collecting of modern and contemporary art.

Cambodian Collections offers glimpses into the as yet little known personal narratives and mindsets behind the efforts of Cambodian art collectors to own and collect artworks for private contemplation rather than for public display.

Collectors featured in this exhibition work within the field of culture and arts, as well as private and public sectors, and together offer to the public narratives and oral histories that are hidden or undiscovered.

This exhibition will be accompanied by a number of public programmes, a series of talks, discussions and tours.

The talks will centre around the concept of preservation, whether it preserves the artworks as a material culture, or as an agency of human histories.

The Object(s) of Collecting takes place from Mar. 15 to Apr. 30 at Java Café and Gallery, 56 Sihanouk Boulevard, Phnom Penh. For more information, visit