KVT – Nguyen The Son Transforms a Brilliant New Space in Dao...

KVT – Nguyen The Son Transforms a Brilliant New Space in Dao Duy Tu

KVT 2015

exhibition Hanoi a living museum

KVT investigates Nha Tay and Dinh at a new museum


Dao Duy Tu Street in the old quarter has changed from a backwater street – that those in the know used to duck through to escape backpacker frenzies -into one of the old quarters most ‘with it’ neighborhoods…..and its main claim to fame is not the rhubarb red shisha establishment which looks very alluring and will allure lots of backpackers!

No! The claim to real fame is just across the street at number 50-The Old Quarter Cultural Exchanges Center which is a really modern architectural WOW statement inside and a nicely understated adornment to the Old Quarter on the outside.


More about this museum in a later post on Grapevine. Suffice, for now, to say that it’s got 3 levels.
The basement is set aside for an archeological exploration of the quarter with loads of maps from inception to post Frenchification

The third level has an engrossing display of research about the quarter’s historical eras, ending with the present roly poly of fascinating indecisive development.

But it’s the second level that is this post’s focus-a very excellent gallery set aside for temporary displays relevant to the quarter.

Nguyen The Son has a double header of photographic work on exhibit to open the space and both are excellent

The background exhibition is a rerun of The Son’s show at Manzi with a few new pieces added and as usual his 3D photographic cut out assemblages (photo releivo) are, as usual, absorbing


If you’re a nosy parker like me you have to get up close and personal (sort of like the little boys who are not content with pop up picture books until they have disassembled the most intricate page to see just how it all works.


My favorite of these ‘Tay House’ constructions ,below, is intriguing because it’s at all sorts of angles


Tay means western in Vietnamese and these western influenced buildings are not a distinctive part of the Old Quarter but are sited in areas surrounding it.

As with most Hanoi-an houses pre the American War, most had add-ons and structural changes as soon as the entrepreneurial decades burst upon the scene.



Rather than regurgitate The Son’s Nha Tay excellent explanatory text that accompanies the exhibits, here’s a part of it that could suffice


The central core of The Son’s exhibition focuses on community houses (Dinh) in the old quarter.


Using a frieze of images in a large open rectangle, the artist visually narrates his research and search of Dinh still in use


And others that have been transformed for other purposes


The official banishment and pardoning and modern flourishing of Dinh would make interesting parallel reading

This section of the exhibition is titled Hanoi-a living museum and The Son’s artist PR statement is apt

“Unlike the younger Saigon, Hanoi is a city with a very old established history. For me Hanoi is like a living body which is beautiful but whose form is shaped by the variability of the times. Hanoi is where layers of era and history, comings and goings, cascade like the geological stratum of time. Looking at the signs of fracture and remnants of an old Hanoi mixed with the symbols and imagines of the modern age makes me feel like I’m excavating through historic layers of the metropolis. So I think of Hanoi as a living museum that embodies the complete archive of past memories and assimilates the flowing and changing rhythms of contemporary life. This very concept and approach forms the background of my artistic projects. As if a debtor to the city, I tirelessly seek out and decipher the tenous linkages between the remaining visual signs of the past etched upon the facades of the structures and thing that that arrive all at once, then all of disappear in the relentless spiraling circle of today’s consumption society. Every project comes to me as a way to find new material, language or approach that is capable of delivering what I want to demonstrate. It can be silk painting, photography, calligraphy, installation art, videos or even a new visual language I call photo relief. Each artistic project raises a question to me and the audience about Hanoi’s values, the values of cultural and living spaces that we used to have and trying to build today, and what they will become in the future.”


This is an exhibition, and a venue,at deserves a dedicated visit

Here’s a link that includes The Son’s ultimate masterpiece (thus far) in photo relieve and his first in the genre at Goethe that made the critics sit up and what he’s got on the books at Art Vietnam with a bit of a different photographic take at Chula.

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.


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