Cultural Custodian – Vietnam Fine Arts Museum

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Tasked with maintaining and developing the cultural heritage of the country, the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum housed in a 1930s French Colonial building, boasts a collection of over 2,000 objects ranging from bronze and iron age artifacts to objects from the 11th to the 19th centuries to paintings of the 20th century dating from the 1940s up to about the 1970s and folk art. The 4,737 sq. m. museum has 1,200 sq m. of exhibition space and areas dedicated to art work conservation and restoration, artifact storage, conferences and meetings.

The ground floor of the Museum contains the most ancient artifacts coming down from the 1st century CE Funan Kingdom in South Vietnam to the Champa kingdom from the 7th to the 15th centuries. The evolution of lacquer as a fine art form in Vietnam comes through from many of the items on display. Among the most notable are the wood and lacquer image of Amitabha Buddha dated to 1057, a huge lacquered Bodhisattva dated to the 16th century, with many arms believed to have held symbolic items. Several wood and lacquer statues of the kings and queens of Vietnam depicted as Buddhist deities also form a major part of the exhibits. Standing out above the rest is the huge wooden statue of the one thousand eyes, one thousand arms 11th century statue of Guan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy. The last room on the ground floor contains further examples of excellent lacquer work where several images showing the various stages of the Buddhas parinibbana are displayed.

The upper floors house paintings of the 20th century dating from the 1940s to the 1970s. The exhibits also display examples of lacquer work, silk painting, wood block and folk art. The influence of communist ideology comes through in many paintings of the mid 20th century with peasants and soldiers depicted in heroic stances. The influence of traditional Vietnamese art forms is very apparent in many of the paintings on show. In some paintings the images appear to stand out as many layers of paint have been applied to get this particular effect. Crushed egg shells have also been incorporated into paintings to achieve another effect.
Costumes and matching accessories of the various ethnic groups in the country are displayed in the anthropology section in the new wing of the museum.

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