Collector Nguyen Thi Thu Hoa: A code of practice must soon be formed for collectors

VietNamNet Bridge – An exhibition showcasing 12 genres of traditional Vietnamese paintings is being held at the Hanoi Museum. The exhibits are from the private collection of Nguyen Thi Thu Hoa, director of the Hanoi Ceramics Museum.

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Collector Nguyen Thi Thu Hoa (Photo:

On the occasion, Hoa granted Nhan Dan Weekly an interview in which she shared her passion for Vietnamese folk and contemporary paintings as well as her thoughts on the building of a code of practice for painting collectors in Vietnam.

Since female art collectors are quite rare in Vietnam and the world, can you please tell what brought you to the job?

Actually I am a fan of ceramics, but it was ceramics which first brought me to paintings. I was introduced to Kim Hoang woodcut paintings by a ceramics collector when I was on a working visit to the Southern region. I was stunned the charm of the paintings.

Many questions rose in my head about the genre of the painting, which originated from Kim Hoang village, Hoai Duc district, Hanoi. Why did such a beautiful genre fall into oblivion? Why is a collector from the Southern region interested in collecting a genre of folk paintings which have been forgotten for so long?

I started studying, researching, and then fell in love with paintings, particularly folk paintings and those produced by Vietnamese contemporary painters who are inspired by folk paintings.

When you are falling in love with someone, it is difficult to talk about the reason for your love and what your love is for. My love for the arts and paintings in particular is in the same situation. Many women have a passion for the arts, but they often have to spend most of their time for their family. The financial issue is also a barrier for them to nurture their dream.

I also have spent time for my family, but being a businesswoman brings me a certain advantage to follow the interest of collecting artworks, which is said to be an expensive hobby.

You have organised three exhibitions since the beginning of this year. Can you tell us about how you managed to hold these exhibitions?

Earlier this year, I hosted an exhibition on five genres of folk paintings, which come from different regions throughout the country. The exhibition was the outcome of countless working trips, researches and collections. I felt exhausted after finishing the event.

But displaying 12 genres of folk paintings required a triple workload and effort than that. Finance is just a partial requirement of a collector. A collector must also have a firm knowledge foundation while I did not receive a professional training on fine arts.

Working on folk paintings in particular, asides from visiting localities to purchase or restore original copies, it requires a lot of time documenting the paintings.

I recently attended an auction session for Kim Hoang painting in France so that I could introduce the painting to the public in a convincing way.

You have collected folk paintings and pictures by Vietnamese painters. Are there any differences between the two hobbies?

They both require you to have a knowledge of fine arts. But for contemporary paintings, you must have an understanding about the world’s fine arts history and different schools of fine arts. A common problem for painting collectors is arts forgery; that is why I prefer purchasing works by painters who are still living.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese folk paintings have a strong attachment to spiritual customs. To understand a genre of painting, a collector must work as a researcher: they must meet artisans, take notes and document the genres by images. Sometimes we cannot find Vietnamese documents or writings about the genres, but they are fully recorded in foreign documents.

What are the requirements of a true collector, in your opinion?

I think there are three requirements for a true collector, including having a firm financial capacity, a certain understanding of fine arts, and a collection of at least 20 artworks.

In addition, he or she never purchases or assigns fake artworks intentionally or unintentionally.

It is said that a code of practice for the collection of painting has not yet been established in Vietnam and the Vietnamese people’s perceived ability for the arts is still at an average level. What do you think about that statement?

The perceived ability for the arts of Vietnamese people today is lower than the common average rate. But our ancestors had shown their interest in collecting antiquity and paintings since hundreds of years ago.

However, a class of collectors has been established in Vietnam. For those who have strong economic potential, they just purchase paintings without selling; but there are only a few collectors like this. Others exchange artworks and objects they have collected.

Some collectors store paintings by unknown artists, waiting for them to become famous to sell their artworks. Those collectors often have substantial financial capacity, an instinct for painting evaluation, and of course some luck.

In regards to painting collections, passion plays a very important role in this work because paintings are less marketable for transaction than antiquities. Maybe it is the reason why the collection of paintings is less developed than antiques collection. Associations and groups of painting collectors have not yet been established while the associations and groups of antiquities collectors have been formed in most of cities and provinces with regular operation and transactions.

What needs to be done to raise a code of practice for the collection of paintings, in your opinion?

Each collector needs to raise their awareness and be active in self-learning so that they can buy paintings of trusted origins. For the painters’ part, they have to be self-respecting of their works. Building a code of practice for painters is also just as important as building a code of practice for collectors.

Thank you so much for sharing with us.

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