The surface area art scene in Hanoi can feel stale and lacking. You often have to dig a bit to find its pulse, to discover some of the more interesting things that are going on here. To get away from ao dai and conical hats. But I think that’s starting to change. Obviously there have always been underground movements (the Gang of Five, Duc’s stilt house, etc.) and local galleries willing to go out on a limb (occasionally the well-established Art Vietnam), but lately something more seems to be stirring.
Betty Bui, pictured above and owner of the newly-opened Bui Gallery on Ngo Van So, will be one such harbinger of change. Earlier this month she opened her doors to the public with her inaugural exhibition: Who Do You Think We Are?, a small collection of Vietnamese and western artists working in the capital. The show is barely more than a brief glance into this emerging modern art world, but what it signifies is so much more. She’ll bridge the gap between east and west (she already has an established space in Paris, France), and hopefully eventually uncover some of the more hidden Vietnamese talents here.
This current exhibit’s standout artists include Phi Phi Oanh, Vuong Thao, Sandrine Llouquet and Matthew Dakin. It’s a somewhat westernized list, and at least two of those names are already well-known here, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the first rumblings. Or ramblings. The exhibition feels like an intimate sort of diary entry, a carefully assembled list of things to do/like. In the best way possible. If I had a gripe I would almost say that everything is too easy to look at. Too easy to like. I’m not sure what’s next, but I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on the gallery’s future plans. It’s a welcome change and addition to the capital. And I think it will prove to be one of the more important places to see new work and artists in Hanoi.
On an aside, the art shown at/in Tadioto, on Trieu Viet Vuong, generally delves much deeper into this underground world, and Duc, the place’s proprietor, is one of the best sources of information on contemporary art in the capital. The downstairs bar is one of the city’s premier places to meet artists, writers, somebodies, nobodies, drunkards and cons. Also too the occasional drunk monk. He’s talked about grand future plans, so it will be interesting to see if any of the upstairs floors eventually turn into public art spaces.
Lastly, I’ve read about a new space called 25 Studio, on Giang Van Minh, but haven’t been there yet. Soon I hope.