Vietnamese paintings market warms up

December 8, 2007

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)

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