German museum invites to special exhibition about Cambodian artifacts

Due to years of national disorder caused by several armed conflicts and the high demand for unique sculptures of the Angkorian era, Cambodia has become one of the main origins for looted arts since the 1970s. Although the government has significantly increased control capacities over Cambodia’s cultural heritage during the last two decades, it cannot prevent the international black marketing with the country’s cultural assets. As this business is widely known to be extreme profitable, more and more counterfeited artifacts are parts of private and public collections. Two weeks ago, the Rautenstrauch Joest Museum (RJM) in Cologne, Germany, opened a special exhibition in which visitors are called for attention that not every ancient looking sculpture originates from the Khmer Empire.

Opened on June 1st with traditional Cambodian dances by Ms. Sopheara Kem (in picture), Germany’s leading performer of Khmer classical dancing, and Ms. Charya Hem, the special exhibition is dedicated to shed light on the provenience of counterfeited sculptures. It includes information about the origin, perpetrators and the technical means that are necessary for fabrication. Curated by Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and Esther von Plehwe-Leisen, RJM’s concept directly responds to the “hardly to satisfy international demand for authentic Khmer sculptures”. On 200 square meters, in three sections visitors find answers for the leading question whether Cambodia is a “crime scene” of the global art market. First, “Cotton on counterfeits” deals with the exposure of forgery. Second, “The metamorphose from a copy to a counterfeit” presents findings from ethnologic research. Third, “Layers and stories – how to detect a counterfeit” includes scientific methods used in this regard.

The special exhibition – free entrance – is open until August 6th. For further information, please visit To purchase the accompanying book written by Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and Lyndel Prott, please click