Awakening the Dragon: TRIBE Art Gallery Returns to Siem Reap

In the heart of Siem Reap, where the ancient temples stand as silent witnesses to the passage of time, there beats a vibrant pulse of creativity. After a three-year hiatus and a detour to Phnom Penh, TRIBE Art Gallery has made a triumphant return to Temple Town. With the reopening of its doors, hopes are high that the artistic spirit of this bustling city will once again awaken from its slumber.

“Siem Reap is a tourist dragon that has been asleep for the last few years; nowโ€™s the time for the dragon to wake up,” says Nat Di Maggio, the visionary behind TRIBE Art Gallery. As the world grappled with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, Siem Reap, like many tourist destinations, saw its vibrant energy dim as visitors vanished and businesses struggled to stay afloat.

The closure of TRIBE Art Gallery in Siem Reap’s Kandal Village in January 2021 marked a somber moment for the city’s art scene. Yet, out of adversity emerged resilience. Nat, alongside his late husband Terry McIlkenny, made the bold decision to move operations to Phnom Penh, where they continued to champion Cambodian artists and showcase their work to a diverse audience.

Reawakening

However, the call of Siem Reap remained strong. Despite the challenges, Nat remained connected to the city, making regular visits and witnessing its gradual transformation. “It was always so quiet. Then I went last year and thought, ‘Itโ€™s going to be a 10-year recovery to get back to what it was. Iโ€™m just going to take the plunge,’ and I decided to move back,” Nat reflects.

On February 8, TRIBE Art Gallery will reopened its doors in a new space on the riverside, marking the beginning of an exciting new chapter. Nestled within the iconic 1961 building, designed by the legendary architect Van Molyvann, the gallery promises to be more than just a space for displaying art. It will be a sanctuary for creativity, hosting exhibitions, art classes, weekends, and retreats.

TRIBE’s journey is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of art to transcend boundaries. From its humble beginnings in 2018 to its return to Siem Reap in 2024, the gallery has remained steadfast in its mission to promote local talent and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Cambodia.

“In the art scene, weโ€™re always hopeful that things will take off,” says Nat, his eyes shining with optimism. As the year of the dragon approaches, there is a palpable sense of anticipation in the air. Just as the dragon symbolizes hope and prosperity, so too does TRIBE Art Gallery represent a beacon of light in uncertain times, guiding the way towards a brighter future for Siem Reap’s artistic community.

Tom Starkey
Author: Tom Starkey

Tom Starkey is an International Development graduate from Sussex University with 12-years of experience across 4 continents, Tom's goal is that he wants to showcase his love for Cambodia, where he lives, works and now happily calls home.