Fire Destroys 5 Homes, Decades of Artwork

A fire that broke out early Friday morning in Phnom Penh destroyed the homes of five families and about 500 pieces of artwork from the well-known JavaArts gallery on Sihanouk Boulevard.

The fire started just after midnight in a second-story kitchen in a small apartment building behind Java Cafe & Gallery and quickly spread, waking the residents, said Chan Sopath, 53, who lives at the other end of the building. 

Charred furniture is seen on Friday inside an apartment destroyed by fire behind Java Cafe & Gallery in Phnom Penh the night before. The fire gutted five apartments and an office belonging to the gallery, where hundreds of pieces of art had been stored. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Charred furniture is seen on Friday inside an apartment destroyed by fire behind Java Cafe & Gallery in Phnom Penh the night before. The fire gutted five apartments and an office belonging to the gallery, where hundreds of pieces of art had been stored. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The cause of the fire, which destroyed five apartments and left four severely damaged, is still unknown, according to Tem Vuthy, deputy police chief of Tonle Bassac commune, where the building is located.

Below the apartment where the fire started, the administrative office of Java­Arts was badly damaged and many artworks and documents were unsalvageable, said Dana Langlois, the gallery’s founding director.

She said around 500 paintings were destroyed and that the gallery’s entire digital archive was missing in the debris and feared destroyed.

“I just think about the loss to the community, because it’s just an incredible amount of knowledge and history and records of artwork that’s just gone,” she said.

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