Khmer Art at The National Gallery of Australia

by Andy Brouwer

Published: November 1st, 2021

  • Location: The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia
  • Provenance: Cambodia
  • Photo credits: © National Museum of Cambodia and National Gallery of Australia
  • 1. Prajnaparamita in the form of a child, 12-13thC. Found at Angkor Thom. Sandstone, on loan from the National Museum of Cambodia (Ka.1691) from 2014.
  • 2. Standing Buddha, 6/7th C. Found in Trapeang Russei village, Kompong Speu. Sandstone, on loan from National Museum of Cambodia (Ka.3201) from 2014.
  • 3. Lintel, showing the Churning of the Sea of Milk, mid-10thC. Found in Romduol district of Svay Rieng. Sandstone, on loan from National Museum of Cambodia (Ka.3217) from 2014.
  • 4. Shiva, 11thC. Bronze, museum purchase 1980.
  • 5. Buddha sheltered by Naga, 12-13thC. Bronze, museum purchase 1970.
  • 6. Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, 12-13thC. Sandstone, museum purchase 1970.
  • 7. Standing Adorned Buddha, 12-13thC. Bronze, museum purchase 1998 for $142,750.
  • 8. Official Seal from Battambang, 12thC. Bronze, museum purchase 2006.
  • 9 & 10. Dvarapala Door Guardians x 2, 11thC. Sandstone. Provenance not known.

The National Gallery of Australia is the national art museum of Australia, one of largest art museums in the country, holding more than 166,000 artworks. It’s located in Canberra and was established in 1967.

There are a number of superb Khmer artifacts in the museum’s collection, which was bolstered by a long-term loan of three sculptures from the National Museum of Cambodia from August 2014; a 6-7th century Buddha, a lintel of the Churning of the Sea of Milk, and a child-like Prajnaparamita. Those 3 exhibits have now been returned to Cambodia. However, they weren’t the first group of artifacts loaned to the Australian Gallery.

From August to October 1992, the exhibition - “The Age of Angkor: Treasures from the National Museum of Cambodia” – saw thirty-three stone and bronze works sent to Canberra from Phnom Penh, and relations between the two countries have remained cordial ever since.

Note (2 Nov. 2021): Interestingly, these Khmer artifacts have all been removed from their website, at the same time as museums are being asked by the international media to clarify the acquisition of these items – including this Gallery. The same applies for their items from Thailand.


Tags: Khmer sculpture, museums, NMC, National Gallery Australia

Tags: National Museum of Cambodia, National Gallery of Australia, museums, Khmer sculpture

About the Author

Portrait of Andy   Brouwer

Andy Brouwer

Cheltenham-born and bred, Andy Brouwer (1959, UK) made his first trip to Cambodia in 1994, and that white-knuckle ride hooked him for life. He upped sticks to Phnom Penh in 2007 after more than thirty years in banking back in the UK to join Hanuman Films.

As well as having a serious obsession in temples, books -- he’s the editor of the guidebook To Cambodia With Love --, and pretty much all things Khmer, he is a lifetime supporter of Leeds United and has an insatiable passion for the music of Steel Pulse and Ennio Morricone. His website relives his numerous visits to Cambodia, and more.

During his time living in Cambodia, he’s been a producer and researcher for Hanuman Films, a product manager at Hanuman Travel, and the media officer with Phnom Penh Crown FC. Since 2020, he developed a personal research, Exploring Khmer Art Worldwide, published as an ongoing series on his Facebook page, that will be soon hosted on Angkor Database.