VietNamNet Bridge – Despite a lack of an actual paintings market, international arts expos, auctions and fine arts festivals like in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, HCMC has in recent years emerged as one of the most active art scenes in the region. However, to explore the authentic contemporary arts in Vietnam when visiting the city, tourists need to know exactly where they should go and should not be distracted by commercial souvenir and decorative painting galleries.
Many local artists have held many exhibitions in international institutions, galleries and events around the world. Also, local galleries and museums have also attracted many foreign artists in Asia, America and Europe to bring their artworks to local art enthusiasts.
Although the number of contemporary art spaces is still limited, their operations are strong. These art spaces are contributing to a better understanding of contemporary art in the country, nurturing local talent, cooperating with foreign institutions and attracting art professionals from around the world.
In downtown HCMC, there are plenty of galleries on Dong Khoi, Le Thanh Ton, De Tham, Bui Vien or Nguyen Van Troi streets, but tourists have to take caution to not get distracted by the colorful commercial entities where works are often mass produced and not representative of the contemporary art scene of the country. So following are some addresses that arts lovers can count on:
HCMC Fine Arts Museum: The museum not only keeps valued collections of iconic Vietnamese artists since Indochine time but also holds regular exhibitions for both local and international artists.
Galerie Quynh: it may be the most professionally recognized, international standard gallery in the city. Established in 2003, Galerie Quynh has spent a decade promoting contemporary art practice in Vietnam from drawing and painting to video and installation by of emerging, mid-career and established Vietnamese artists and distinguished artists from around the world. Visitors can also join lectures by international artists and curators.
Craig Thomas Gallery: it was founded in 2009 by American Craig Thomas who has a long involvement in the Vietnamese art scene and the relationship with artists, curators and collectors during that time. Visitors to the gallery will have a chance to exchange the passion and arts knowledge with foreign artists and surely see fine collections of young and promising artists. Thomas also brings local works to international art fairs to promote the development of a vibrant domestic art scene in Vietnam.
Tu Do Gallery: it is known as the oldest standing gallery in the city with regular exhibitions throughout the year. The gallery boasts collections of both old and contemporary artists. Launched in 1989 by Dang Hai Son and Tran Thi Thu Ha, visitors to the gallery not only can see a wide range of artworks but also can hear attractive stories by the owners who have witnessed ups and downs of the Vietnamese arts scene.
Eight Gallery: Owned and run by a collector of Vietnamese modern and contemporary art, the small gallery holds exhibitions of contemporary artists throughout the year. As it doesn’t have a strong marketing network, it is not easy to know when an exhibition is on but visit their website and contact them for information.
Vin Gallery: it is run by Malaysian artist Shyevin S’ng who is really interested in Vietnamese contemporary arts and tries her best to promote the arts to the world by bringing local works to international art fairs in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand every year. The gallery also holds workshops and art classes as well as exhibitions of both local and foreign artists.
San Art: it is an internationally renowned, independent, artist-initiated, non-profit gallery space and reading room. Visitors can be assured that it is one of the most active contemporary art organizations dedicated to the exchange and cultivation of visual practice to promote, facilitate and showcase contemporary art through production, exhibition, discourse and education.
ZeroStation: it is an experimental art space founded by artist-curator Nguyen Nhu Huy. The space holds workshops, talks and lectures, as well as art projects with exhibitions, screenings and performances. The venue is where visitors can learn and exchange about contemporary experimental arts with foreigner artists in residency projects.
Sao La: it is a nonprofit art initiative supported and founded by Galerie Quynh at the HCMC Fine Art Museum. A new addition to the art scene, the space will also have a library room with art books and will support emerging local talent.