Vietnam's contemporary art in 2022
Updated: Apr 23
The Indochina School of Art of Hanoi was established by the French around 1925 with a view to developing a distinctly Vietnamese style of modern and contemporary art. The staff were mainly French artists and offered an education to students throughout Indochina although most students came, naturally from Hanoi.
Hue Institute of Fine Arts was established in 1957 with the mission to draw on the rich cultural heritage of central Vietnam, the ethnic richness and the Cham culture. Again, the influence came, mainly, from French teachers but the styles that developed were distinctly different from those of Hanoi.
The Saigon University of Fine Arts was first established by the French as school of Drawing and Design in Saigon in 1913 and the school has enjoyed a dynamic history of change and development ever since. It was the first of Vietnam’s institutions to teach architecture, graphic design and fashion design and continues to be the leader of contemporary art and design in the country.
The fine art scene has suffered many setbacks over the past 100 years due to war, regime change, oppression, poverty and new ideologies. The fine arts have been an instrument of propaganda, war journalism and Vietnam’s very conservative cultural norms.
In recent years, we have seen a more mature approach to fine art from the government and culture police but even I have been subject to censorship and last minute prohibitions from localized police raids. Of course it is never clear if they are protecting public sensitivities or just extorting bribes from exhibition organizers.
Despite all these factors, Vietnamese artists are starting to enjoy domestic and international recognition of their work and the past 2-3 years have seen the first works being sold for over $1m. International buyers come, mainly, from China, Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia. They are buying the collections of deceased colonial collectors and the most exciting works of the small group of Vietnam’s best contemporary and modern artists. Vietnamese art now features in collections of some of the world’s most prestigious art museums including MOMA in New York, The Guggenheim Museum in New York and fine art galleries through the USA, Europe and Asia.
It seems that Vietnam art is rising in price and collectors are picking it up while it is still reasonably priced. This is a great time to buy the work of Vietnam’s artists.
Here are some places to see and buy the best of Vietnam’s art:
Hanoi Museum of Fine arts - must see
Thanh Long Art Gallery - Hanoi
Lebadang Memory Space - Hue - must see
Hoi An art space - at the Anantara Hoi An Resort - must see
March Harbour Gallery - Hoi An
SAIGON - HO CHI MINH CITY
Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts - District - must see
The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre - District 2
Craig Thomas Gallery - Saigon District 1
Ben Thanh Art and Frame - District 1
Galerie Quynh - District 1
Salon Saigon - District 3