On the occasion of the exhibition “Grapevine Selection – Volume 2”, which aims to promote young artists and contribute to develop a domestic art market in Vietnam, we would like to introduce a series of articles on the topic of domestic art market by journalist / author Dao Mai Trang under her pen name “Phong Van”.
Article 2: A Hope for Vietnamese People to Collect Vietnamese Art
After many years of being almost exclusively oriented to foreign clients, some galleries are finding appropriate ways to return to the potential of the local market. The original methods they thought of in the beginning included organizing a sales network, having art showcases at artist’s private homes or in the courtyards of some friendly embassies, or at newly opened hotels. They also tried to understand and study the psychology of Vietnamese clients in fine arts and sculpture. A representative from this group has a very interesting comment: Vietnamese people love Feng Shui and this suits well with the style of the lacquer artworks at the moment. Because the lacquer works are in warm colors, which normally brings the feeling of prosperity. Perhaps the galleries could follow this direction of thinking, and before mentioning about high quality collecting, emphasize how contributing to the change of shopping for decorative products in a middle class Viet family is a good way to once again press the button of starting the local art market. Some people who have sold works to Viet people all said that there are not so few generous people. For many of them, once they like the works, they will pay directly and won’t bargain like some foreign clients.
Even a gallery owned by a foreigner, the Craig Thomas Gallery (HCMC), introduced some lacquer work so rich in decoration in his most recent showcase in November 2014. According to Mr. C. Thomas, Vietnamese people like lacquer a lot so he decided to pay attention to this art medium as a way to reach the potential local audience. He has also prepared the staff for a marketing campaign with local clients more strategically. This is something he had never previously thought of since opening in 2006. Following this direction, Quynh Galerie (HCMC) is also seeking for local marketing staff. Since their establishment in December 2003, the most important staff from Quynh Galerie have mostly been foreigners. According to the director of the gallery Quynh Pham, an American Vietnamese woman, she expresses her wish and hope that the corporations and large enterprises of Vietnam are actually going to pay more attention to Vietnamese art. “This collecting work can help keep great valuable contemporary art works for the country,” said entrepreneur Bui Dinh Than, who once made the renowned Duc Minh art collection. Over one year ago, Quynh Galerie opened a second location in the center in District 1, Dong Khoi Street. This attracted the attention of a part of the public with economic potential and shopping habits who also spend their leisure time in the luxury downtown area.
In addition, there are some practical points of view that they don’t have many expectations from their own personal experience. On the occasion of a solo exhibition at Mai Gallery at the end of 2014, artist Vu Duc Trung said that most of his local clients are just friends who bought his works just for support. The rest of them are just foreign clients. He hopes that maybe only his daughter’s generation (born in 2010), the new generation, can inherit a new education making them realize that art is truly essential for individual life. That’s possibly when there will be truly local collectors, only then we can create a respectable local art market. These seem to be the practical thoughts of a person having much experience with the art world outside of Vietnam through many exhibitions, art exchanges with art communities in Korea and ASEAN.
Suzanne Lecht, art director of Art Vietnam gallery, officially operating since 2003, has also shared a rather static point of view on the potential of the local art market. In an interview in 2013, she said that over 10 years of operating Art Vietnam she had only seen 3 or 4 Vietnamese people buying art at the gallery. She said, “Vietnam has the elements to form an art market but they seem to be too weak. Vietnam has some galleries (art galleries not just art shops or souvenir art shops) but they are just so few. There are art collectors in Vietnam but just a few. There’s the Fine Art Museum in Vietnam but there doesn’t exist a contemporary art museum yet. The day will come when more Vietnamese people will collect art.” And to make these factors stronger and be the foundation for the local art market, she said, “…the authorities responsible for art in Vietnam must actually offer more support for the arts within the structure, business systems and policies in a transparent way to encourage the market to be more confident in formation and development.”
(Translated by Do Tuong Linh)