Paintings sold for less than $50 ten years ago now sell for more than $50,000. Nguyen Qui Duc, art curator and author, suggests why.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that art is big business in Vietnam. But a lot of money is changing hands in exchange for modern canvases, woodblock prints, or paintings on silk and the Vietnamese bark paper, giay. Gallery owners talk of selling individual works for tens of thousands of dollars, and some are financing frequent trips to the United States, Europe, and Asian cities such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo. Meanwhile, artists in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hoi An are boasting about the houses they’re able to build for themselves as a result of their commercial success.

Country Girl 1 by Linh ($300)

Fishing 8 by Hoang Minh ($520)

The Country Girl 2 by Minh Phuong ($1200)

Nude 3 by Bich Ngoc ($190)

The explosion of the art market in Vietnam started a mere few years ago. The increasing number of tourists since the early 1990’s has a lot to do with the interest in Vietnamese art, particularly among visitors from japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other Asian countries. But awareness of Vietnamese art can be traced back to a handful of individuals who, for commercial and cultural reasons, have played major roles in putting Vietnamese art on the international map.
Among these individuals are scholars, journalists, critics and writers, such as Jeffrey Hantover of Asian Art News, the scholar Nora Taylor and journalist Zina Matlock. Their articles have had significant influences on the careers of Vietnamese artists and their sales figures. The owners of Gallerie la Vong in Hong Kong, devoted entirely to Vietnamese art, have published glossy coffee-table books that are considered by some to be the bibles on Vietnamese modern art. Others disagree, but nonetheless it’s thought that they have driven up the prices of Vietnamese art significantly.
The Smithsonian Institution and new Asia Review have devoted entire issues of their magazines to the arts in Vietnam. David Thomas, head of the Boston-based Indochina Arts Project, having had experience with putting together an exhibition of artwork by Vietnamese veterans, created a new show which was picked up by the Smithsonian. It’s been touring the U.S. under the title An Ocean Apart, a survey of Vietnamese art from the 1940s to today, including a small amount of work produced by Vietnamese now living in America. The Indochina Arts Project has also been bringing artists from Hanoi to the U.S. for visits and residencies lasting several months.

Peaceful 3 by Nguyen Van Bay ($300)

Minh Duc 7 by Minh Duc ($250)

In Vietnam, the critic/painter Nguyen Qhan and the poet Duog Tueng, both charming and both sporting the image of the archetypical Vietnamese intellectuals, have also been wielding much influence and gaining publicity through their contacts with Western media and cultural figures. Foreign owners and directors of galleries in Vietnam, such as Red River and Natasha in Hanoi, have been successful in creating attention for the artists they represent.

All the excitement – and hype – even prompted the New York Times to publish several stories about Vietnamese artists and their art; last year the paper ran a report about the heightened interest and rocketing prices.

But there is in fact good reason to be excited about contemporary art from Vietnam.

The French brought modern painting to Vietnam with the founding of the Fine Arts College of Indochina in Hanoi in 1925. until then the Vietnamese had focused primarily on village arts, which included woodblock printing, temple carvings and sculptures, and some brush painting learned from the Chinese. For 20 years the French teachers trained Vietnamese students in fundamental classicism, sometimes encouraging them to apply Western Techniques on traditional, native themes; the students, in turn, taught further generations in the art of painting.

Country Girl 1 by Linh ($300)

Vietnamese Girls 11 by Manh Phu ($300)

During the years Vietnam was at war with America, artist of the northern half of the country required to work within the limits of socialist realism and propaganda art. Until just a few years ago, nudes and abstract or freer figurative works. Today, artists work in all styles. Oil paintings on larger canvases are becoming more common, but many artists still produce exquisite pieces, using gouache on paper.

Among the artists currently doing exciting and popular works, a great many are Hanoi artists such as Dang Xuan Hoa, Hong Viet Dung, Tran Luong, Ha Tri Hieu, and Le Thiet Cuong. These are men in their late twenties and thirties, painting mostly oil-on-canvas abstracts and works depicting elements of Vietnamese traditional society with great styles and confidence. Few women are well-known, except for Dinh Y Nhi, a young graduate from Hanoi’s School of Fine Arts, fetching $500 to $1000 for black-and-white gouaches of whimsical yet harrowing stick figures. her prices may go up even further following recent exhibitions in France and Japan, and a stay at a prestigious California artist residency. Thanh Chuong, a former Hanoi graphic artist, paints vibrant self-portraits and village scenes both in gouaches and in oil. Most of his works starts at about $400. he recently produced hundreds of lithographs commissioned by a Korean representative of a large hotel chain. Le Quang Ha is another artist using vibrant colors to paint charming portraits, often with phallic lotus bouquets. Truong Tan, an openly gay man, has gained a measure of notoriety in recent years by painting men bound in tight ropes, and by adorning his works with English and French sentences confronting viewers with questions about AIDS and HIV.

In the south, works by Tran Trung Tin, Nguyen Trung and Buu Chi (a Hue art professor), are among the most interesting. Do Quang Em’s hyper-realist approach has supposedly earned him $20,000 to $60,000 per painting, usually oil portraits of his wife or sill-life with minimal elements in extremely somber light. Nguyen Quan’s oils of altars and disembodied womens’ heads appeal to Dada lovers, who pay up to $5,000 for a painting.

With so many artists and so many galleries, lovers of Vietnamese art often find it daunting to acquire the works. Tourists seeking a reminder of their Vietnam trip simply buy gouache renderings of Vietnamese country life, many under $100 or even less expensive, in small towns. The more serious collectors seek works by the masters such as Duong Bich Lien, Nguyen Tu Nghiem, Nguyen Sang, Hoang Tieh Chu and Bui Xuan Phai. These are among the first graduates of the College of Fine Arts, and their works are rare to find, with perhaps the exception of Nguyen Tu Nghiem’s. Bui Xuan Phai is undoubtedly the most well-known with his charming Hanoi street scenes. But the artist, who died in poverty in 1988, is also the most copied, since collectors will pay amounts almost impossible to imagine for paintings that ten years ago were being sold for less than $50.

New Le Thua 4 by Le Thua ($500)

LThua 4 by Le Thua ($500)

Gallery owners in Vietnam do a great deal to launch and promote their artists, and they’re known to weave the most interesting, sometimes-true stories around them. But stubborn art lovers will look past the hype, negotiate hard, and sometimes get very good prices by going directly to the artists. other art lovers still consider the great works available in Vietnam underpriced next to prices in the west, and will probably continue to help boost the art market in Vietnam.

The Success Story of Vietnamese Americans in New Orleans East

It’s been almost two years since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. While the major focus has been on the failure of the government to provide support to the majority African American community in the 9th Ward, the resilience of the Vietnamese American population in New Orleans East – a suburban community 15 miles northeast of downtown New Orleans – has been getting a great deal of attention. Both academic research and mainstream media seem to point to the idea of a hard-working community whose been through much worse than Katrina’s destruction.


Dateline NBC’s Stone Phillips picked up as camera himself – with the shaky shots it’s very much Corporate Media meets Youtube – and spent Tet with this community earlier this year. His Postcard from New Orleans was produced by Vietnamese American Tommy Nguyen, who gives us a little insider knowledge here about the experience.

It’s a good (though slightly saccharine) piece that highlights the strength of the Vietnamese American community surrounding the Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church (MQVN). In fact, I learned that this community has a 90 percent return rate – way more than the rest of the city. My favorite part is when Phillips is interviewing Father Vien Nguyen about all the work they did to find the Katrina refugees, offer them services and bring them home and the father says: “We asked the government not to get in our way!” The Dateline piece talks extensively about how the Vietnamese community was used to upheaval and flooding due to their history – and how this made the destruction of Katrina old hat to them. I got this picture in my head of a Vietnamese family sitting down to dinner in a house filling up with floodwater after the levies broke and the old grandmother saying: “This is nothing, when I was your age on the Mekong Delta, we learned to breathe underwater!”

The Vietnamese American population of New Orleans East was also the subject of a working research paper published by the Mercatus Center of George Mason University. The paper, authored by Emily Chamlee-Wight and Virgil Henry Storr, hits on the same ideas as Dateline and talks about the concept of a “cultural toolkit” – or how “this community was able to make use of an array of cultural tools that aided their swift return.” I suggest reading the whole paper because it’s fascinating, but I can give a few highlights here – like the amazing reality of the return rate of this community:

On October 9th, 2005, just five weeks after the storm, Father Vien Nguyen of MQVN held Mass for 300 parishoners, most of whom were residents of the MQVN neighborhood. Given the ghost-town feel of most New Orleans neighborhoods at this stage, this was an outstanding turnout. The following Sunday, 500 residents had returned for services. On October 23rd more than 2,000 members of the Vietnamese community attended Mass at MQVN. By April of 2006, 1,200 or the 4,000 residents who lived within a one-mile radius of the church has returned. By the summer of 2007, approximately 90 percent of the residents were back and 70 of the 75 Vietnamese-owned businesses in the neighborhood were up and running.

But the main argument of this paper is that “the stories that are told and retold in this community have served as effective tools – for both individuals and the community as a whole – in the rebuilding process.” The paper also argues that for as fucked up the Model Minority Myth is, that’s what the community believes brought them back and made their rebuilding so successful. The authors of the paper argue that they did this research because the Vietnamese American community “is often left out of the discussion of race and ethnicity in relation to Katrina.”

I felt an underlying sense in both the Dateline piece and the paper that this success story was being compared to the African American communities in New Orleans and what they went through. I was left wondering how much cross-cultural work was being done over the past two years. There were a few examples in the Dateline piece of other minorities looking to th Vietnamese community as leaders, but not really of coalition-building. Any Katrina experts want to weigh in on this?

Posted by neela at August 28, 20

Vietnamese paintings market warms up
14:34′ 06/09/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese artists can now sell paintings for more than US$5,000 apiece making the local art market heat up compared to ten years ago when a painting sold for less than US$50, according to a gallery owner.

A painting named 'Champa Witch Doctor' by artist Bui Quang Anh is displayed at Tu Do Gallery. Anh is considered as a rising star in the HCMC art world because of his unique abstract style and because he only uses his hands to paint instead of using brushes.
A painting named ‘Champa Witch Doctor’ by artist Bui Quang Anh is displayed at Tu Do Gallery. Anh is considered as a rising star in the HCMC art world because of his unique abstract style and because he only uses his hands to paint instead of using brushes.

Tran Thi Thu Ha, who owns the Tu Do Gallery, the first private gallery in HCMC, told the Daily that it would not be an exaggeration to say that art is big business in Vietnam. A lot of money is changing hands for modern canvases, woodblock prints, and paintings on silk and Vietnamese bark paper.

She said the explosion in Vietnam’s art market started a few years ago. The increasing number of tourists since the early 1990’s has a lot to do with the interest in Vietnamese art, particularly among visitors from European countries and Asian countries like Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Many years ago, tourists bought Vietnamese paintings as souvenirs. However, now they come to Vietnam to buy paintings for their collections and to trade because they have begun to recognize the value of Vietnamese art.

“It is not only foreigners keen on Vietnam paintings, some local collectors and art enthusiasts have made a great contribution to the paintings market heat up,” Ha added.

Art critic Phan Cam Thuong said that many years ago 10% of paintings were sold in the domestic market. However, about 30% of paintings are now purchased by local clients.

Until just a few years ago, nudes, abstract or free figurative styles were not popular and works of nudes and abstract styles were banned from museums and exhibitions.

Today, artists work in all styles. Oil paintings on larger canvases are becoming more common, however, such as Dang Xuan Hoa, Hong Viet Dung, Tran Luong, Ha Tri Hieu and Le Thiet Cuong still produce exquisite pieces in the old style. In the north, Thanh Chuong and Pham Luc’s works are the best selling paintings on the market.

While in the south, Do Quang Em’s hyper realist approach has supposedly earned him US$20,000 to US$60,000 per painting. His works are usually oil portraits of his wife or life that are done with minimal elements in extremely somber light. “Now, Em’s paintings are hunted by many art collectors,” Ha said.

Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses have also recognized the value of Vietnamese art works and regularly sell paintings from contemporary and master Vietnamese artists.

Growing concerns

Although the local paintings market has warmed up, industry insiders still express concerns when galleries are opened that sell unauthorized paintings. Art critics say that copied paintings hurt the growing market in Vietnam because it makes collectors lose faith as well as affects market expansion.

Aside from the situation of the booming copied paintings market, traders and artists have not paid much attention to the marketing of art.

Artist Hoang Duc Toan, a member of the Vietnamese Fine Arts and Photography Association complained that traders and artists usually spent a small sum of money for exhibition advertisement because funds for marketing are limited.

Ha confided that her gallery has not spent much on exhibition activities as well as the paintings trade because marketing expenditure is small.

“At present, exhibition advertisement is mainly dependent on the free support of the local media,” she confided.

(Source: SGT)

Thursday started my first full day of shows here in New York and I was really looking forward to seeing the collection of newcomer Thuy Diep, a young designer who grew up in Canoga Park in the San Fernando Valley.
The California-reared Vietnamese-American, who’s worked for such powerhouses like Carolina Herrera, Zac Posen and Bay Area native Peter Som, showed 17 looks in an airy, loft space this afternoon. Her second collection since she started her label, Thuy.
Her design aesthetic fit the space – uncluttered, modern, bright.
“I like to use great fabrics and do one-off details that are subtle, but catches the eye,” she said in a quick interview during the presentation. “Each piece has something special.”
That would include a simple shift, done in silver glittery fabric, with three horizontal tiers draped so that part of the lines appear as if they are melting.
(It’s the first dress in the group shot.)
Diep, who was born in Phan Thiet, which she describes as a resort town located between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Her parents were tailors who ran a tailoring school and custom clothing business before immigrating to the U.S.

Diep was educated at Brown University and worked for Pricewaterhouse as a consultant before going to Parsons School of Design (yes, the one featured in Project Runway) and taking on draping and pattern making jobs for Herrera, Posen and Som.
Last season, she struck out on her own and impressed a number of luxury retailers, including Bergdorf Goodman. She giddily says she’s booking “quite a few” appointments with buyers interested in this spring line. Especially in the spotlight: the slim tuxedo jackets.
Her coats  – a silver gray linen blend one and a floral brocade, kimono sleeve one – struck me as pretty special. They will retail for about $1,000.
Also special, a blue satin high waisted pencil skirt with seams and a diagonal cut that hugged curves in the right places, eliminating the sort of ride-up inherent in the shape of a pencil skirt. Genius.
Diep is definitely one I’ll watch. She’s talented yes, and that’s reason enough.
But her heritage alone should spark the interest of many in Silicon Valley’s Southeast Asian community.

Vietnamese Embassy launches website in Argentina
09:58′ 10/09/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – A website for the Vietnamese Embassy in Argentina was launched on Sep. 4 on the 62nd anniversary of Vietnam’s National Day. The website is in Spanish and Vietnamese and at the address

According to Vietnamese Ambassador to Argentina Thai Van Lung, the website has been built to meet the demand for updated information’s from Argentinean people as well as other South American countries.

Also, the website includes information in Vietnamese to serve overseas Vietnamese living in South American countries, and help them understand clearly about guidelines and policies of the Party and State to the overseas Vietnamese.

The ambassador said that he believes that the website will be useful to South American countries, especially Argentina. Through the website, they will understand more about Vietnam’s culture and social-economic development, and its achievements during the renewal process and continue to contribute to expanding and further consolidating this bilateral relationship.

(Source: VNA)

CNN sends film makers to capture Vietnam’s beauty


A CNN crew from Singapore will arrive in Vietnam Friday to shoot a promotional film on local tourism.

It will film in several places including old towns and a clutch of museums, and shoot Vietnamese chefs in action in Hanoi.

The filmmakers then go to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to capture the breathtaking beauty of the limestone cliffs jutting out of the ocean.

Pham Huu Minh, head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said more than US$260,000 had been earmarked for showcasing the country’s landscapes and friendly people on the American channel.

CNN will show a 30-second film clip daily at prime time for three months starting October.

Source: Tuoi Tre – Translated by Ngoc Anh

Lien, 25, becomes youngest Vietnamese to obtain doctorate

Ms. Nguyen Kieu Lien (L)  

Nguyen Kieu Lien, the recipient of a £90,000 per year Bill Gates Special Scholarship at the UK’s Cambridge University since 2003, has become the youngest Vietnamese PhD at the age of 25.

Lien took just two years to complete her thesis on “Terahertz spectroscopy and imaging in chemical engineering.”

She had also written books like “Science and Technology of the 20th Century” and “Stories about famous scientists.”

Seven years ago, Lien, the then a student of the Hanoi University of Medicine, won a chemistry scholarship to the University of Adelaide (Australia) where she was an excellent student and won many awards.

After graduating from the University of Adelaide in 2003, Lien was awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship that allowed her to pursue a PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK.

She is now working as an engineer at TWI Ltd. in the UK, specializing in applying high power lasers in the manufacturing industry. Lien expects to continue to work in the UK for the next three or four years.

Reported by Thien Long – Compiled by Vinh Bao

Vietnamese confused over gameshow frenzy
16:51′ 07/12/2007 (GMT+7)

Who is the billionaire gameshow on VTV3

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese TV audiences are now sick of international gameshows and want something more domestically inclined.


8pm to 9pm is considered the “golden hour” of television and is reserved for imported gameshows. The national VTV3 channel devotes its gold hour five days a week to imported gameshows, for example Brainpower Battle on Monday, Who Wants to be a Millionaire on Tuesday, The Price is Right on Wednesday, The Last Passenger on Thursday and Music Game on Friday. Most of these games were bought from overseas television channels.


Local channels have their own gameshows. For instance, HCM City Television has over ten, Hanoi Television has three and Hai Phong Television has four. Many of these are similar, however and as so many are on each day, audiences are fed up with them.


For foreign gameshows, local TV producers have to Vietnamise them. Some gameshows are successfully localized so they are welcomed by Vietnamese viewers, for example Music Game, Guessing Words through Pictures, etc. However, some of them are unpopular because they do not correlate Vietnamese culture, i.e., The Last Passenger on VTV3.


There is a serious shortage of made-in-Vietnam gameshows. VTV and HTV, Vietnam’s two largest stations, broadcast around 40 gameshows a week but just a few of them are Vietnamese based.


VTV has exerted efforts to design local gameshows, such as Student 96, Inter-provincial Games, From Eyes to Heart, Seven Colours of the Rainbow, At Home on Sunday, Cultural Itinerary, etc., but these games have gradually disappeared and are replaced by imported gameshows.


It is the same for local TV channels, for example, Hanoi’s Joyfulness with Artists, HCM City’s Green bamboo, Binh Duong’s Vietnam – My Country, etc. The oldest locally based gameshow is At Home on Sunday with a nine year run.


(Source: Kinh Te & Do Thi)