art with a portrait of an artist with a bar code in his mouth and
brushes sticking out of his head like a toilet. Nguyen manh
Hung, whose father was a pilot during the war, puts a humorous lens on Vietnam’s tragic history: He paints fighter jets dropping bales of rice and bags of groceries instead of bombs.
in late 2012, a new gallery opened in the city to provide yet
another space to show the works of young artists. the manzi
Gallery, located in a restored 1920s villa formerly owned by
the richest man in Vietnam, takes a slightly different approach,
though—it’s a gallery, café and bar all in one. “our aim is not
only to promote Vietnamese art but to bring more Vietnamese
audiences to the art,” says co-owner tram Vu. “they don’t feel
confident or comfortable in a gallery, but here the art is more
accessible—they can have coffee or wine and look at the art on
the wall.” the space also hosts other frequent cultural events,
from music and dance performances to film screenings.
Exhibitions are also popping up with increasing regularity,
many sponsored by outside groups like the Goethe institute and
the japan Foundation seeking to promote more experimental or
critical Vietnamese artists. Last fall, Hanoi Grapevine hosted its
first private exhibition at the Vietnam National museum of Fine
arts, which featured the works of eight promising young artists.
one of those artists, Pham Huy thong, who comments on
the rampant materialism in Vietnamese society in his works,
says that although there is more creative freedom in Vietnam
today, many artists still practice self-censorship to avoid running afoul of the government. “Every year, we push a little bit
more,” he says. “if it’s too obvious, you push the barrier, you
push the line, but you should not jump over it.” Pham and
others of his generation agree, though, that change is coming,
even if it’s coming gradually. “these artists are really coming
into their own,” Lecht says. “i think it’s another chance for
Vietnam to really show what they can do.” [
HOW TO VIEW. Outside the Art Vietnam Gallery and Manzi Gallery, it can be
difficult to connect with artists, many of whom work out of their homes. Pho Hong
Long, the owner of the Dong Phong Art Gallery, can arrange tours of artist studios,
including those of painters Ha Manh Thang and Dang Thao Ngoc, the daughter of
Dang Xuan Hoa, one of the “Gang of Five.” Hanoi Grapevine ( hanoigrapevine.com)
is also an excellent resource for exhibitions and other art events in the city.
FOR AR T’S SAKE.
Left to right: the
Store; a painting in the
Art Vietnam Gallery.
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