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Imagine inspecting molten asphalt that has been poured like lava over Pompeii. The March exhibition of lacquer paintings at Tu Do Gallery — Vietnam’s first private art gallery — should be looked at close-up. Forget what the shapes may represent. Get close enough to smell the oily vapours of the medium.
The ASEAN Community will officially join hands in 2015. In anticipation of this dropping of economic borders, Southeast Asia’s arts communities have started thinking about what this means for them.
“The Nguyen rulers strenuously sought to make Neo-Confucianism the foundation of the national culture. Under the Nguyen, traditional Vietnamese culture assumed its final form, the one that would persist into the twentieth century to interact with Western influences.”
— Neil Jamieson in Understanding Vietnam
On Nov. 1, hundreds gathered at Ho Chi Minh City’s Museum of Fine Arts for the opening of The Colour of the South exhibition. Among the art lovers were collectors, critics and journalists. This was a full-blown affair with congratulatory floral displays and opening remarks made by the Vice President of Vietnam’s Fine Arts Association. Inside, the air was thick with anticipation — outside, the courtyard echoed with buzzing clicks of handheld cameras. This was not a typical Friday morning at the museum.
Bui Tien Tuan paints women. In October’s Red Thread exhibition at the Craig Thomas Gallery, they were scantily clothed women. He paints using subdued colours, including — of course — pink, the default ‘feminine’ of the past century. The red is for raunchiness.
So it’s not really a district, but a rough designation stretching through the alleyways of Phu Nhuan, Binh Thanh and Tan Binh. The sellers we found lived in alley houses, with at least one room piled high with bean bag chairs, huge pillows, neck pillows and absurd bean bag-esque couches. These aren’t the VND1.6 million types from Index Living, which aren’t hard to come by. These are pick-your-pattern types that retail for pretty much a million or less, and have transformed many a living room into a ’chill zone’.