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Art treasures unlocked in private museum

Duc Minh Art Gallery, HCMC, Viet Nam
HCM City ó For the past 50 years Bui Quoc Chi has been one of the countryís biggest private art collectors, and now he is striving to open Viet Namís first private museum.

He inherited the treasure trove of artwork from his father, Bui Dinh Than, who also passed on his passion for establishing a family museum to display the pieces.

But the idea of a private museum was controversial when Than first raised it 30 years ago, and he never saw his dream come true.

However, Chi claims his ongoing art display at 31C Le Quy Don in HCM City is in effect a private museum.

"Iím going to submit papers for permission to open a private museum," Chi says. "But I still donít know what procedures should be taken."

Requirements for the establishment of private museums and a legal trade in antiques have appeared in the Cultural Heritage Law, introduced two year ago. However, many collectors say they still encounter difficulties and concrete regulations on what is required to open a museum are only being drafted.

Duc Minh Art Gallery, HCMC, Viet Nam

According to the Ministry of Culture and Information, there are about 20 private art collectors and many antique collectors.

Central province Thua Thien-Hue is home to a number of thriving private collections: the gongs of Mai Thich Ung, traditional musical instruments of Nguyen Huu Ba, ceramics of Nguyen Xuan Hoa and sculptures of Diem Phung Thi.

Bui Xuan Phaiís masterworks in Ha Noi and a collection of over 100 traditional musical instruments in HCM City are also hot addresses.

In Hoi An, family collector Diep Gia Sung has publicly displayed his rare collection of antiques, gemstones, ceramics of the Ming and Qing dynasties, and printings and books of the Nguyen Dynasty.

The Diep familyís house has now become a destination for tourists, and cultural and historical researchers.

According to experts, the real number of Viet Namís private collectors must be much higher, with many still hesitating to publicly announce themselves.

"One of the main reasons for their silence is the lack of legal recourse," says HCM Cityís Historical Museum director Trinh Thi Hoa.

Collector Tran Hau Tuan suggests that if artworks and antiques are seen as national treasures, then private collectors must be seen as one of the main guardians.

"If private collectors hadnít protected artwork, then valuable pieces would have disappeared or fallen into the hands of foreign collectors," he says. "They were cultural activists before becoming traders."

Private collectors are asking the State to implement preferential policies and financial assistance, and establish an official organisation to make their activities professional.

Reprinted with permission from VietNam News Agency.


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