For most tourist or foreigner visiting Vietnam, art doesn’t usually come to mind. So beyond the tourist world of the Vietnam War (known as American War in Vietnam), museums, or pho beef noodles, there’s a whole new generation of contemporary artists and performers worth checking out. ur first night in Saigon, we got on a xe-om (motorbike taxi) and headed for an art gallery opening at Galerie Quynh,23 Ly Tu Trang St. A small minimalist gallery tucked along a side street in District 1 not too far from the shopping of Dong Khoi avenue. It’s owned by a Vietnamese-American named Quynh Phan and her partner Robert Cianchi who wanted to promote Vietnam’s new and emerging artists. The crowd was a mixed crowd of foreigners and Vietnamese art-going patrons. With a glass of white wine and a handful of snacks, we mingled around the one room show. Most of the artists were present for their opening. Find out what's new at GQ
If you think of finding art at the Fine Arts Museum of HCMC there isn’t much to see inside the museum itself besides the beautiful French colonial mansion it resides in. Interestingly, it also houses a few smaller individual art galleries within the ground floors. One of the museum resident is the Blue Space Contemporary Arts Center
run by Mrs. Tran Thi Huynh Nga. She’s been supporting and organizing contemporary art in Saigon since the late 90’s. The blue space gallery
supports not only Vietnamese artists but also collaborating work with foreign artists. The gallery is sectioned into 5 small rooms with one long hall of framed paintings for sale. When I was there, three of the 6 rooms were used for the current installation at the time. Depending on the current exhibit, the courtyard in the center of the building is sometimes used as a performance stage. Otherwise, it’s a recreational shuttlecock court for workers in the building.
Where can you shop, have a drink and look at art all in the same place? Another gallery to check out is Mai’s Gallery on Nguyen Hue, District 1. It’s housed in the very back of a modern home décor and gift boutique. As you walk towards the back, there’s a darkly lit bar and lounge area before you reach the gallery space. The gallery area is small with a small square pool area in the center. It gets pretty hot and muggy during a performance because the industrial fan makes too much noise, otherwise still worthwhile to hang around and checkout the art. See what's going on currently at www.maisgallery.com.
Sometimes the art scene moves outside of the gallery walls. In this case, we were outside on the grounds of Binh Quoi Tourist Village just 20min. outside of the city center. A tourist recreation park by the Saigon River, but also a haven for wedding photography backdrops. I’ve never seen so many couples (there must have been over 20 dressed-up couples) in one place posing for their matrimonial portraits, but that’s a whole other story. The exhibit opening hosted a wide range of artists in a variety of media. By nightfall, the park was nicely lit up by little walkway lamps all along the park. Everyone was having a nice time mingling around the park looking at the different installations and performances. A buffet and an open bar was out for the art patrons, but that was all gone within a few minutes. Nevertheless, it was a nice way to view art in a tropical setting.