Glimmers of hope for Vietnamese to collect artworks

After many years of being almost exclusively oriented to foreign clients, some galleries are finding appropriate ways to return to the potential of the local market.

The original methods they thought of in the beginning included organizing a sales network, and having art showcased at artist’s private homes or in the courtyards of some friendly embassies, or at newly opened hotels. They also tried to understand and study the psychology of Vietnamese clients in fine arts and sculpture.

A representative from this group has a very interesting comment: Vietnamese people love feng shui and this suits the style of lacquer artworks at the moment. The lacquer works are in warm colors, which normally bring a feeling of prosperity. Perhaps the galleries can follow this direction of thinking, and before talking about high quality collecting, emphasize how contributing to the change of shopping for decorative products in a middle-class Viet family is a way to once again to restart the local art market.

Some people who have sold works to Vietnamese said for many of them, once they like the works, they will pay directly and won’t bargain like foreign clients.

Even a gallery owned by an American, the Craig Thomas Gallery ( HCM City ), introduced lacquer work rich in decoration in his most recent showcase in November 2014 .

According to Mr . Thomas, Vietnamese people like lacquer a lot so he decided to pay attention to this art medium as a way to reach the potential audience. He has also prepared the staff for a marketing campaign directed at local clients more strategically. This is something he had never previously thought of since opening in 2006.

Following this direction, Quynh Galerie ( HCM City ) is also seeking local marketing staff. Since their establishment in December 2003 , the most important staff from Quynh Galerie have mostly been foreigners. According to the director of the gallery, Quynh Pham , a Vietnamese-American woman, she expresses her wish and hope that the corporations and large enterprises of Vietnam will pay more attention to Vietnamese art.

This collecting can help keep great valuable contemporary art works in the country ,” said entrepreneur Bui Dinh Than , who once had the renowned Duc Minh art collection.

Over one year ago, Quynh Galerie opened a second location in the center in District 1, Dong Khoi Street . This attracted the attention of some in the public who have economic potential and shopping habits that involve spending their leisure time in the luxury downtown area.

However, they don’t have many expectations from their own personal experience. On the occasion of a solo exhibition at Mai Gallery at the end of 2014, artist Vu Duc Trung said most of his local clients are friends who bought his works just for support.

The rest of them are foreign clients. He hopes that maybe his daughter’s generation ( born in 2010 ) can inherit a new education which will teach them that art is truly essential for life. That’s possible when there will be truly local collectors; only then we can create a respectable local art market.

These are the thoughts of a person with much experience with the art world outside of Vietnam through many exhibitions and art exchanges with art communities in Korea and ASEAN .

Suzanne Lecht , art director of Art Vietnam gallery, officially operating since 2003, has spoken about the potential of the local art market. In an interview in 2013, she said that in over 10 years of operating Art Vietnam , she had seen only three or four Vietnamese people buying art at the gallery.

“Vietnam has the elements to form an art market but they seem to be too weak. Vietnam has some galleries (art galleries, not just art shops or souvenir art shops ) but there are only a few. There are art collectors in Vietnam but only a few. There’s the Fine Art Museum in Vietnam but there is no contemporary art museum. The day will come when more Vietnamese people will collect art.”

And to make these factors stronger and be the foundation for the local art market , she said , “…the authorities responsible for art in Vietnam must offer more support for the arts within the structure, and business systems and policies should be conducted in a transparent way to encourage the market to be more confident in its formation and development.”

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