The art of freedom

From Cristina NualArt

Posted on 10 December 2011

Tu Do (pronounced tuyo), Vietnamese for freedom, is the name of the first art gallery in South Vietnam. It opened in the newly named Ho Chi Minh City, some years after the Fall of Saigon. The owners are Son and Ha, an adorable couple in their gentle years, who are still pushing on in their mission to give art a quiet and valuable space in this frenetic city.




Now in his 70s, Son speaks good English and knows a formidable amount about Vietnamese artists. Ha, in running a gallery with her husband, developed an urge to make art of her own. The artists they worked with were able to give her some pointers, but it was her drive that propelled her work. Her first painting of a vase of flowers, in expressionist blues and greys, was completed 20 years ago, at a time when her life companion was imprisoned in a ‘reeducation camp‘.

The extraordinary pair survived life’s blows, and are still together, now celebrating a retrospective of her work in their gallery. In some of Ha’s sweet lacquer paintings, you can see the two of them as young lovers in rolling fields, protected by knobbly trees and the health of fresh air. This one, titled ‘Together’, is my favourite:


TuDo Gallery sells quality artworks from a selection of established Vietnamese artists. Overall, the topics are safely likeable and non-confrontational, with some little curious pieces, a handful of experimental gems, and the odd rare treasure that is not for sale. I really like that this gallery has not followed the lead of others in HCMC that are greedily overpricing the artworks out of proportion with their artists’ trajectories and international competitiveness.


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