Tết Art 2015 – The contemporary Tet Art Fair – is an independent idea developed by two young organizers: Trinh Minh Tien, an artist from the Real Art Group, and Doan Phuong Lien, a volunteer at Nha San Collective.
The sponsor of location for Tết Art is Hang Da Galleria, a modern shopping mall opened in 2011 amidst the busy Old Quarters on the ground of the old Hang Da market. Obviously, if it hadn’t been for the recent art events taking place here (in addition to Tết Art are the current Mùi Tết sculpture exhibition by New Form Art Group and the previous Hanoi Art Market in November 2014), perhaps Hang Da Galleria will forever be unknown to Hanoi inhabitants, who only go to the Old Quarters for the “Old” part of it.
Tết Art, which happens from 05 – 15 February, dominates most of the space on the 3rd floor of the shopping mall. The fair brings together more than 350 works by 88 artists from various prestigious art groups such as Sơn Ta (lacquer), Hiện Thực (realism / Real Art), Lưu Động (plein air), Đồ Họa (graphic art), Đồ Họa Thực Nghiệm (practical graphic art), CLB Họa Sĩ Trẻ (young artists club), New Form, and many other independent artists. The exhibition also welcomes the participation of Le Thiet Cuong’s Gallery 39, the only gallery to take part, and an art collector who brings an artwork from his collection to offer. The participating artworks are carefully chosen by the members of the groups themselves before being curated by artist Trinh Minh Tien and Tuan Mami, the artistic director of Nha San Collective.
According to organizer Doan Phuong Lien, Tết Art’s initial purpose is not to run after profit but mainly to offer a venue for artists to exhibit their works while giving art lovers a chance to view all art forms by all art groups together in one location. But of course they do sell. There have been 30 works sold to date and the positive sign is that most buyers are Vietnamese. The sold paintings are mostly easy-to-like landscape paintings or affordable prints. This shows that Vietnamese buyers are more interested in decorative aesthetic value of the arts, but not necessarily consider artworks as serious investments.
In fact, the price listed at Tết Art is pretty modest, only from VND 500,000 (US$ 25) to VND 20,000,000 (US$ 1000). Looking at the list of the participating artists in which there are many well-known names such as Nguyen The Hung, Trinh Tuan, Doan Hoang Lam, Doan Xuan Tang, Pham Khac Quang, Vu Xuan Tinh, Tran Cong Dung (Dzung Xe Dap), etc., we can easily imagine how affordable the artworks are.
The organizing group plans to continue coordinating similar events and also reveals a possible plan to put together an art fair in mid-2015. Normally we understand “art fair” as the gathering place for commercial galleries rather than individual artists; however, for a country with no domestic market or “serious” galleries promoting original contemporary arts like Vietnam perhaps the concept of “art fair” can be understood a little different.
Generally, the event was highly appreciated by the participating artists for the professional attitude exhibited by the organizers and good quality of the artworks. On the other hand, there are some mixed feelings from the audience towards the exhibition display, such as the difficulty in tracking artists and artworks, the lack of available explanation of each art group or specific guidelines and clear layout. However, we all have to acknowledge the massive effort from the organizers who delivered the whole project from scratch to the opening night in mere 3 weeks. Of course their next events can only be better.
Tết Art is ongoing until the end of this week on 15 February, totally free, with a few more side activities such as:
Sat 14 Feb, 8 am: Talk with artist Thanh Chuong: “Vietnamese artwork copyrights” (talk in Vietnamese)
Sat 14 Feb, 10 am: Talk with artist Le Thiet Cuong and collectors: “Vietnamese and Southeast Asian art market in the global context ” (talk in Vietnamese)
Words by Pham Hoang Mien, photos by Nguyen Thu Trang.