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Vietnamese arts gain international recognition through exhibitions (February 22, 2005)

HANOI : Vietnamese art is gaining international appeal with tourists flocking to its arts galleries and its artists being invited to exhibitions all over the world.

In Singapore alone, the market for Vietnamese art is estimated to be about $1.2 million annually.

What are some of the trends in contemporary Vietnamese art and just what makes it so compelling?

Richly-coloured lacquer paintings, idyllic scenes of a peaceful countryside - Vietnamese art seems far removed from its busy streets.

Hanoi is the cultural capital of Vietnam and this is where hundreds of galleries have been set up in recent years. So what is it about Vietnamese art that makes it so unique and successful?

Suzanne Lecht, Vietnamese Art Expert, said: "Vietnam is very unique in all of Asia because of the influence of the French.....when the French came and they established the art school in 1925 in Hanoi for all of Indo-China and they started to train these artists in western techniques and mediums.

"Yet they are Asian, they are Vietnamese, they are not western so they merge the two and it is somewhere east and west meets, and it makes the art more accessible, to westerners and to people who are not from this culture."

Suzanne, who has been in Hanoi for 10 years, says the arts scene is thriving like never before.

This is something that 33-year-old artist Diep Quy Hai hopes to take advantage of.

He has stayed faithful to the traditional medium of lacquer but ventured into the realm of the abstract.

Diep said: 'In Europe, oil painting is a very special and it can express the emotion of the European artist and with the Asian artist the lacquer is a special material, the spirit. And using lacquer painting the artist can express an emotion very special to the Asian spirit."

Outside of Vietnam, art galleries, like one in Singapore, have also caught on to the appeal of Vietnamese art.

Jasdeep Sandhu, owner of Gajah Gallery, has been importing Vietnamese paintings for eight years and visits the country at least once a month.

"The styles are very popular because they are very far removed from contemporary Vietnamese society. They are very dreamlike in a way, some critics have actually said that it is mainly due to the past 50-70 years of turmoil that they've had in their country, the artists want to get as far away from that as possible," he said.

But he cautions that there are two kinds of artwork from Vietnam - the commercial and the truly artistic.

Jasdeep added: "It is quite easy to sell the tourist sort of work.....I have seen prices go up quite a lot, I have seen a very strong demand for the commercial art go sky high and it is tapering off right now because people are just more careful about how they spend their money.

Gajah gallery sells some 150 Vietnamese works a year and says the market for them keeps on growing. - CNA

Reprinted from Channel NewsAsia


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