Sopheap Pich is widely considered to be Cambodia’s most internationally prominent contemporary artist. In 1979, when the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia led to the ousting of the Khmer Rouge régime, he fled with his family to Thailand, spending four years in refugee camps before immigrating to the United States. Memories of traveling vast distances on foot and witnessing the devastation of war — broken bodies, ravaged landscapes, abandoned artillery, ruined buildings, and the breakdown of social and cultural institutions — underpin his early sculptural practice. While Pich studied painting, earning a BFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1995), and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1999), he turned his attention to sculpture after returning to Cambodia in 2002 where he laboriously began working with local materials – bamboo, old rafters, rattan, burlap, beeswax, broken utensils, and earth pigments gathered from his local surroundings. Pich’s works have been collected and shown in many museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the Centre George Pompidou, the Mori Art Museum, M+, and the National Gallery of Singapore, as well as many international exhibitions including the 57th Venice Biennale (2017), Documenta 13 (2012), the 6th Asia Pacific Triennale (2009), the Setouchi Triennale (2022), and the Guangju Biennale (2023), among others. He lives and works in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Pich’s work is featured in the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) exhibition Angkor Complex: Cultural Heritage and Post-Genocide Memory in Cambodia, curated by U‑M History of Art Professor Nachiket Chanchani and on view February 3 — July 2024. As crises of public health, racial injustice, economic instability, and climate change spread worldwide, millions are experiencing distress, conflict, indebtedness, and vulnerability. This mélange of unnerving emotions is hardly new for Cambodians. Between 1975 – 1979, when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, about a quarter of the country’s population died of infectious diseases, weapon wounds, and malnutrition. Bringing together more than eighty artworks spanning a millennium — including many on loan from collections worldwide — this landmark exhibition presents the visual culture of Cambodia and its diaspora and allows viewers to encounter the still-fresh scars of a genocide and of related upheavals and critically appreciate strategies evolved to nurture resilience.
The 2024 Doris Sloan Memorial Program is presented in partnership with the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Established through the generosity of Dr. Herbert Sloan, this annual program honors one of the Museum’s most ardent friends and supporters, Doris Sloan, a long-time UMMA docent.
Lead support for Angkor Complex: Cultural Heritage and Post-Genocide Memory in Cambodia is provided by the U‑M Office of the Provost, U‑M Office of the President, National Endowment for the Arts, Michigan Arts and Culture Council, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Eleanor Noyes Crumpacker Endowment Fund, U‑M Ross School of Business, U‑M Department of History of Art, Mark and Julie Phillips, U‑M Center for Southeast Asian Studies, US Department of Education Title VI grant, and an anonymous donor. Additional generous support is provided by the U‑M Department of Asian Languages and Cultures.
Series presenting partners: Detroit Public Television and PBS Books. Media partner: Michigan Radio.
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