Vietnam art lags behind other Asian countries at int’l auctions

Though Vietnamese galleries and artists have stepped up efforts to penetrate international art markets in recent years, the country’s art still fetches considerably lower prices when compared to other Southeast Asian works.

In recent years, more Vietnamese galleries have joined famed art markets held in other Asian countries, for both higher revenues and opportunities to promote the country’s art to the world.

Such markets as the Singapore Art Fair, Art Expo Malaysia, Art Basel Hong Kong, and the Singapore Affordable Art Fair – one of Singapore’s two largest art fairs – have brought together artists and gallery owners from around the world.

The presence of Vietnamese galleries in such international markets has been increasingly felt of late.

Mai’s Gallery and Hanoi Studio, in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, respectively, whom foreign customers often mention when asking about Vietnamese art, have become fixtures at the fairs since 2010.

Despite these tremendous efforts, Vietnamese paintings still fetch notably lower prices than those created by Singaporean, Malaysian, Indonesian and Myanmarese artists.

At Singapore’s Larasati auction on August 24, works by reputable Vietnamese artists, including Bui Huu Hung, Do Quang Em, Limkhim Katy, Dang Xuan Hoa, and Nguyen Tan Cuong, fetched a mere S$1,464-4,270 (up to US$3,378).

At the Masterpiece auction in the city state the same day, three oil paintings by Bui Xuan Phai, one of Vietnam’s eminent artists, were sold for only S$3,000-10,000 ($2,374-7,911).

In the meantime, many Indonesian collectors tend to inflate the prices of Indonesian paintings, so many contemporary artists have artwork priced over S$100,000 ($79,117).

A Singaporean art collector in Ho Chi Minh City, who wished to remain anonymous, observed that since Vietnam still lacks a professional art market, Vietnamese artists fix their prices themselves.

In other countries, the art market is a systematic, professionally-trained combination of artists, galleries, curators, auction companies and customers, which decides the prices of paintings.

Art buyers in these countries consider collecting art an investment, and the artwork can be traded or mortgaged.

Meanwhile, curators and gallery owners in Vietnam still lack professional training, while most local art buyers are amateurs and consider art collecting a hobby,the Singaporean collector noted.

He also pointed out that due to the global economic crisis, more people have chosen to buy paintings as a long-term investment instead of bank savings.

They are thus more cautious about their choice of paintings, which can easily fetch good prices at auctions.

Art buyers from Singapore, as well as other countries, find notable works by prominent Vietnamese artists from the 1925-1945 period, including Tran Van Can, To Ngoc Van, and Bui Xuan Phai more investment-worthy.

They thus seem to ‘neglect’ younger, lesser-known Vietnamese artists, resulting in their declining prices.

The anonymous Singaporean collector added that a lack of creativity among Vietnamese artists, as well as the prevalence of fake paintings, also deters potential foreign art buyers.

“Competition at the fairs and markets is very fierce. The fairs draw artists from all continents, which shows that the world’s contemporary art flow is changing rapidly. However, changes in Vietnamese art remains limited in both topic matter and materials,” said Duong Thu Hang, owner of Hanoi Studio.

Hang added that though her gallery still operates conventionally, as it discovers new artists, holds exhibits, and forges client relations, she has not missed an opportunity to showcase her own artwork at the fairs.

Meanwhile, the expat Vietnamese owner of Thanh Kieu Moller Gallery in Singapore stressed that the boom in art fairs and auctions has boosted the creativity of Singaporean artists and dramatically enhanced the value of their work.

The anonymous Singaporean art collector added that the art arena in such countries as China, Indonesia, and Singapore thrives thanks partly to their governments’ macro-policies, long-term investment, and public interest, which Vietnamese art deserves as well.

Source: TuoiTre English

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