Vietnam is another country in South East Asia with a rich history. It is also one of the oldest regions with myths claiming it to be as old as 2879 BC although more factual claims put its beginnings around the third century BC. Even if the factual claims as considered to be the only claims, Vietnamese could be considered as some of the oldest people involved in farming (of rice). Vietnam remains one of the five largest producers of rice in the world, to date. Vietnam remained under the rule of Chinese dynasties for more than a millennium which destroyed its traditional social fabric to a large extent. But the traditional fundamentals were strong enough for them to wrestle the control back and regain independence from the Chinese. Although the region remained fraught with internal and external conflicts, tradition and art in Vietnam saw a resurgence in that era. The 19th century saw European colonists making a foothold in the country for almost a century which led to breaking up of the republic, civil war, occupational wars resulting in a virtually complete breakdown of the system. It was only in 1990 when the US president Clinton visited the country and things started looking up for Vietnam.
Art is a definitively an old culture in Vietnam with art-pieces dating Stone Age being excavated. The art showed no signs of slowing down in Vietnam while it showed signs of a high level of maturity in the Bronze age. Ceramics found from the different periods of the Bronze age displayed complex forms of art that evolved in stages. Vietnamese art suffered a lot under a thousand year reign of the Chinese dynasties but it didn’t die out. In fact, it incorporated a lot of Chinese art forms. The period following the Chinese rule, until the start of European occupation was a golden era for Vietnamese art and it flourished for half a millennia. Although it was under European occupation, art was getting support in some form or the other in Vietnam. With institutes such as École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine (now known as Indochina’s School of Fine Art or Vietnam University of Fine Arts) being set up in the 3rd decade of the 20th century, modern art was making a foothold in the country. The artists from this era were the founding members of the modern art culture of today. Although a lot of damage was done around the mid of the century with internal wars, there was a reason for art to blossom with the economy opening up and peace returning to the region.
Nguyễn Phan Chánh is one of the founding fathers of the Vietnamese modern art and one of the most well known too. His best-known works are the scenes of village life depicted on silk. Nguyễn Vạn Thọ, better known as Nguyễn Nam Sơn is another stalwart from the same era. He is credited with establishing École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine. The current golden period began around 1985 with paintings being sold for higher prices and collectors and buyers approaching the market to source authentic Vietnamese art. Vu Dinh Son is one such artist from this era who has gained recognition. Nguyen Thi Chau Giang is another modern artist who graduated from the Ho Chi Minh City College of Fine Arts and works with the silk. There are other Vietnamese artists such as Dao Minh Tri, Ca Le Thang, Do Hoang Tuong, Hoang Khai Nguyen and Lim Khim Katy who are making their mark in the contemporary Vietnamese art scene.
Vietnam has seen a surge in art institutes and galleries in the modern era. Although not without accusations of fraud and scandals in the art industry, the art scene in Vietnam is currently rife with those interested in acquiring Vietnamese art.
The Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts now housed in building built in 1937 has art on display belonging to various historical periods. Precious Heritage Art Gallery Museum, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and Ho Chi Minh Museum are a few places that exhibit art on well-made platforms and does a lot to further the cause of art in Vietnam.