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Private museums are essential for keeping Vietnamese art at home

Missing masterpiece: Thieu Nu Ben Hoa Hue, oil on canvas by To Ngoc Van, one of Viet Namís lost masterpieces.
HA NOI ó Private fine arts museums have a crucial role to play in the nationís culture and can help stem the flow of valuable works to foreign collectors, art lovers have said.

Connoisseurs of the arts should take advantage of recent changes to the cultural heritage laws, which allow them to open private fine arts museums and enter the antiques trade, said Tran Khanh Chuong, general secretary of Viet Nam Fine Artistsí Association.

The later individuals wait to establish private fine arts museums, the more of Viet Namís artistic masterpieces and historic antiques will be sold abroad, he said.

Chuong also believes private museums will allow the State to better protect Viet Namís unique cultural heritage.

An overseas collectorís purchase of Thieu Nu Ben Hoa Hue (Young Girl by the Waterlily) by late artist To Ngoc Van is a great spiritual and cultural loss to the nation, the arts activist lamented.

"State-owned fine arts museums should encompass the breadth of Viet Namís fine arts, but they possess few paintings that are rarely the best works of each artist," Chuong said.

Most of the best examples of Viet Namís contemporary fine arts are in the hands of private collectors, he said.

"The new law allowing our premier arts collectors to open private museums means art works can now be exhibited in the most favourable way," said painting collector Bui Duc Chi, son of the famous collector Bui Dinh San.

When an individual or a company invests in a private museum, he said, they must pay even more attention to the value of the works and their preservation than State-owned museums would.

There are already some outstanding private museums and collectors in Viet Nam, such as the Diem Phung Thi Museum in Hue, Le Ba Dang collector in Quang Tri Province, and the private collectors like Vuong Hong Sen in HCM City and Tran Hau Tuan, Bui Thanh Phuong, Nguyen Dang Quang and Nguyen Tu Nghiem in Ha Noi.

However, these galleries and individuals do not yet have strong enough ties with State fine arts museums to comprehensively protect Viet Namís artistic heritage.

Private museums can help State fine arts museums discover, gather and even buy works by the notable artists scattered throughout the country, Chuong said.

Therefore, private museums are not competitive operations or sole trading businesses but are a further step in co-operation between State art galleries and private collectors, he said.

"However, there are still problems to be ironed out, such as the extent of State control and the right of private museums to trade with each other and individuals," Chuong said.

It is a complex task to open a private museum, as operators must have an original collection with a certain theme, an artwork preservation system approved by experts, and they must complete laborious paperwork.

Whether they are private or State-owned, fine arts museums must preserve fine arts works and present them to the people as part of the fabric of the nationís culture. This is why private arts museums are essential, Chuong concluded. ó VNS

Reprinted with permission from VietNam News Agency.


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