The Importance of the Local Art Market

The Importance of the Local Art Market

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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 1: The Importance of the Local Art Market

Vietnam has the Doi moi painting period in the 90 decade; this marked the great success in both arts and business. But during that time, no one from the art world thought that there could be a real local art market in Vietnam, because there wasn’t or just very few Vietnamese art clients. There are thousands of visual artists both painters and sculptors in Vietnam. There’s an art museum system, galleries, the continuation of art collectors, art lovers, art education at school. In a way, we have all the fundamental conditions but we weren’t able to connect these conditions into a solid and beneficial foundation for the formation, development of a local art market.

Why was the price of contemporary artists in China pushed up so rapidly? Because there were some Chinese tycoons joining the auction sessions by world renowned art auction and it didn’t just stop there. Art auctions quickly appeared in the big cities of the country including the Chinese auction house and big names such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Along with the birth of the new art museum system from both the government and private sectors, they are getting bigger and more modern. The system of art fairs and international contemporary art festivals such as biennale, triennale, galleries and experimental art spaces, regular art auctions shows the openness, transparency and sustainability of the art market. Thus, it is clearly to be a long-term and stable investment channel with huge profit especially for experienced finance tycoons.

A corner of Singapore Art Stage 2015, the biggest commercial art fair in South East Asia
A corner of Art Stage Singapore 2015, the biggest commercial art fair in South East Asia

Why has Singapore quickly become the focus of the art market in South East Asia in particular and in Asia in general while there are only a few million populations? Why was the Singapore biennale launched in 2006 and quickly become a reputable biennale attracting hundreds even millions of visitors even though the price isn’t so cheap. Why could they turn their Singapore Art Museum into an important museum of the local art market while its history was only 20 years old?

Meanwhile the information about Vietnamese painting price declined strongly, some works of renowned artist was sold under the starting price at one local art auction in the second half of 2014 (*). This startled the art world. The fact that the local art market was considered frozen since the global economic downfall since 2008 is something so serious that the government had to consider a strong act on developing a proposal for developing the local art market.

There was an old saying in Vietnam “Turning around and it’s the coast”. Looking into the social and economic life at the moment, this is something poignant. Many years of exporting and working for the foreign sectors, the local market is full of cheap Chinese products. Now the global economy declines making many new manufacturing fields are back to the “potential” local market. Vietnamese fine art, no matter how distinctive it could be, cannot escape from the inevitable market law: we need to truly develop in our country before having the strength for a long-term sustainable development out of the national territory.

Phong Van

(Translated by Do Tuong Linh)

(*) Thể Thao Văn Hóa: Larasati Auction House – All Vietnamese artworks are sold even with low price (article in Vietnamese)

In the same series:

Article 2: A Hope for Vietnamese People to Collect Vietnamese Art
Article 3: Interview the Owner of Thanh Uy Fine Art Collection: Collecting Art in Vietnam – the Hidden Waves


  1. Thank you for this article — I am looking forward to read more on the topic on the pages of THG.

    Re:”Art auctions quickly appeared in the big cities of the country including the Chinese auction house and big names such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s.”

    I think that only after the auction system is established locally as a proper mechanism for creating and establishing the local art market, the value of the artworks produced by local artists can not be substantially eroded at a level of the international art market.

    The “art auction culture”, starting from auctioning artworks for fundraisers or charity at a grass roots level, say, local schools, etc. to opening local art auction houses in addition to the gallery system, is to create a proper local market place, something that helps establish and stabilize the local prices of artworks before they go onto the international market.
    Once in place, it serves to guaranty the bottom-line price of the locally produced art and to establish, so to speak, the ‘starting bid’ on international level.

    As it stands at present, the devaluation of art works by some contemporary Vietnamese artists on international auctions could be seen as a market correction, but, the gap that appears in evaluating art by VN artists seems unbridgeable as it has no place to return to — i. e. well established local market price.

    In support of the above thoughts and as a general information on the state of the contemporary art and the art world in Vietnam, I would like to refer the readers to the paper “The Professional Visual Artist in Vietnam”, section “The role of the public auction”
    by Annette van den Bosch, School of Literary, Visual and Performance Studies at Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia; published in the
    Asia Pacific Journal of Arts and Cultural Management Vol. 2 Issue 2 December 2004 pp 108-114 © University of South Australia ISSN 1449-1184

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