Art Quest Continued

I’ve a bit of catching up to do with quite a few new photos, so I’m going to do three posts today.

The first is about my continuing quest for exciting contemporary art in Hanoi. I first posted a question on The New Hanoian website asking for any info. I received a list of galleries and a Google map showing the location of several. Then I did some research on the ‘net. Contemporary Vietnamese art has been in the news for a few years now, with artists traveling abroad to exhibit and curators and collectors coming to Vietnam to see the art and meet the artists. Check out this New York Times article for an overview. First let’s have a look at a typical gallery found in Hanoi’s Old Quarter (this one’s just around the corner from my hotel):

Typical Art Reproduction Gallery
Typical Art Reproduction Gallery

As you can see there’s a young man in there busy painting reproductions of well-known artworks from both the West and the East. Some upscale galleries apparently sell reproductions of the better contemporary artists; so one must be careful when buying. I’ve seen a lot of galleries similar to this one, churning out repros for the masses. I haven’t inquired about prices yet.

Then there’s the upscale galleries. I found one of the better ones yesterday. Four floors of paintings, many stacked against the walls. I saw at least a dozen paintings I’d be happy to own. Some were simple, bold figures in minimal landscapes. But what really caught my eye were some abstract lacquer paintings. Amazing textures and very gestural. Once again I didn’t ask about price but I bet we’re talking about $1000 plus here; not much in the West but a lot here. Here’s a photo I blasted off (unfortunately the lens was fogged by the high humidity yesterday).

Gia Huy Gallery, Hanoi
Gia Huy Gallery, Hanoi

I continued down the street looking for Salon Natasha, known to be a hotbed of art in Hanoi. At the address I had I found a funky pink building, with nothing to indicate what it is. A small door was slightly ajar so I stuck my head in and saw an elderly woman in the rear chopping vegetables. I asked if I might come in and look around. She waved me in and continued to work. The narrow hallway was cluttered with paintings and a fascinating collection of mixed media (which sounds a bit pompous but how else to describe the eclectic collection of objects piled everywhere?). I felt like I’d found the place I’d been searching for! Next I stepped into a bigger room to the side, where there were more objects including a painting in progress. I loved it. So much expression, so much joy in the work. So much evidence of production. I didn’t want to photograph any one piece as that would be a rude infringement on their work but I took a photo of the space and you can see some of the paintings. This time the photo’s blurry because of the slow shutter speed in the dim light.

Salon Natasha, Hanoi
Salon Natasha, Hanoi

I’ve still a few more places to check out but I left here feeling I was on the right track and hope to one day meet the couple who live here and perhaps attend an event here.

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