Man shares Vietnamese art at Surprise museum

September 25, 2007

Man shares Vietnamese art at Surprise museum

Michael Senft
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 22, 2007 07:25 AM

For Todd Shepherd, collecting art isn’t just a way to beautify his home – it’s a way to meet people.

“I don’t collect any one thing. It all depends on whether the piece or the artist speaks to me,” the 41-year-old Glendale man says. “There are pieces I have that are sitting in my closet, I’d never put them up, they are so bad. But my wife and I would go to First Fridays and strike up conversations with these artists. We’d talk, then I’d buy one of their pieces, no matter how bad it is. Afterward my wife would ask why I wasted $25 on that piece, but I figure the conversation, the connection, it’s worth it.”

That’s not to say Shepherd’s collection isn’t museum quality. Surprise’s West Valley Art Museum is showing 15 paintings by contemporary Vietnamese artists from his collection. He developed a love of Eastern art during his travels in Japan and China while serving in the Navy.


“I’ve always loved art, but I kind of drifted away from it. My oldest son is very artistic, and when he was growing up he always wanted to go to museums. We’d go to museums and art galleries in places like Tokyo, and it rekindled my love for art. It was a great way to escape, as well as a great way to learn about a culture,” he says.

But don’t expect typical Eastern art in the collection. Most of the pieces in the exhibit show a markedly Western influence.

“Vietnamese art is different than most Eastern art. Because it was a French colony for so long, the artists were heavily influenced by 19th-century European movements,” Shepherd says.

They are also astonishingly diverse, from realistic portraits to abstract oil paintings. Some are in pen-and-ink, others in gouache. And all are recent works.

“Vietnamese art did not follow a linear development – there are no ‘-isms.’ The artists paint what they feel. And with doi moi (the Vietnamese government’s economic Westernization in the ’80s) many things that were taboo became more accepted,” Shepherd says.

Through his collection, Shepherd has kindled friendships with several Vietnamese artists, including Bui Quang Anh. Shepherd has invited the abstract painter to visit America next year.

“He’s never been to the United States. I want to bring him over here, show him the Grand Canyon,” Shepherd says.

A former Viet Cong soldier, Anh offers Shepherd a different view on his own family history.

“I come from a military family – my relatives fought in Vietnam. By collecting Vietnamese art, I’m able to meet artists like Bui Quang Anh and learn more about the war from their perspective,” he says.

“And I’m able to share my perspectives with them.”



Todd Shepherd

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Vietnamese Artists: From the Collection of Todd Shepherd

When: Museum hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Exhibit open through Dec. 16.

Where: West Valley Art Museum, 17420 N. Avenue of the Arts, Surprise.

Admission: $6.50-$7.

Details: (623) 972-0635,



One Response to “Man shares Vietnamese art at Surprise museum”

  1. Soumen Says:

    Nice post on Vietnam Paintings.
    I would like to suggest vietq to go through Nguyen Thanh Binh exclusive Vietnam Paitings here. This would help you out.

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