KVT’s Southern Journals – Part 2

KVT’s Southern Journals – Part 2

Posted on

Has the locus of Vietnamese contemporary art shifted from Hanoi to HCMC?
KVT headed south to take a look for himself. The result is a series of articles about his encounters.

Read more articles here.



If you’re going to TP Ho Chi Minh and want to see some very good Vietnamese art at very good, sophisticated, commercial galleries that only exhibit top class stuff, then it would be very silly to leave out EI8HT Gallery. It’s on the ground floor of a smart office building at 8 Phung Khac Khoan St, District 1…an easy taxi or xe om ride from the city center.  If you step into their oasis of calm from Jan 26 to Feb 5 you’ll be able to catch the work of Nguyen Thu Nghiem

invitation Nguyen Tu Nghiem

The gallery has been a fixture on the Saigonese art scene for two years and has between eight and ten exhibitions a year with a large proportion of solos that features both the safe and sometimes controversial categories. The latter recently represented by that of Le Quang Ha in October, 2012 (see Ilza Burchett) and the former by Nguyen Minh Thanh who had his latest works from ‘Unspoken Words’ hanging when I visited.

The gallery is a nice size, can have several configurations and, I understand, has a storage area for the owner’s sizeable art collection behind.




On this trip to TPHCM I decided to do a drop in, no prior call or email, to most art spaces just to see how they feel…and, like Galerie Quyhn, EI8HT came out smelling of  roses…welcoming, accommodating and informative.

I cut my Vietnamese art appreciation teeth on the outstanding installation ‘One Road’ by Nguyen Minh Thanh at Goethe during a visit in 1998 . From then on his installations seemed to crop up wherever I was…At the Casuala Powerhouse in Sydney and at the third Asia Pacicfic Triennial in Brisbane-both in 1999. Images of his installations were glimpsed in art periodicals and magazines and I was infatuated with his work. In 2011 I came across one of his earlier wall pieces at a regional exhibition in Singapore and I felt  that original prickle of excitement all over again

If any reader has images of some of those installations perhaps they’d like to share them with us

From 2000 I  followed his progress through Salon Natasha to Art Vietnam (via some overseas and local forays)  and his last exhibition there in 2007(see a selection of his work  from that stable of artists here) and from whence he left us for the quiet life in Dalat in 2008.

In 2011 some of his drawings surfaced at a group show at Bui galleries closing down and his latest enigmatic faces were at EI8HT – to close one year and welcome the next.




I’d gradually got less excited about the artist’s work as it changed from Installation to more and more of those enigmatic faces, but I have to admit that as soon as I come nose to nose with one of them a slight shiver seems to tingle up my spine. Perhaps it’s the residue of something that some viewers call the spiritual experience they say that emanates from his work.

I’ll have to have a few more face to face experiences with the new lacquers before I warm to them.

Back to EI8HT and the question of the location of the Vietnamese Art focus.

I was still none the wiser but I was certainly getting more and more envious of the south’s commercial art facilities.

Next installment: ViveKKevin

Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.


Leave a Reply