When the Vietnamese Communist Party opened Vietnam to the world in 1986 in a reform program called Doi Moi, Vietnamese art was also opened to the West and in the 1990s; the literature and research of Vietnamese art began to flourish. However, very little is known about Vietnamese art of the pre-Doi Moi period and the motivations towards changes of the Doi Moi era.
Art in the Age of Doi Moi (Renovation) in Vietnam was a project carried out by Dr. Nora Taylor (Art Institute of Chicago), Dr. Natasha Kraskraiva (Salon Natasha, Hanoi) and Dr. Boitran Huynh-Beattie (Asiarta Foundation, Australia). The aim was to provide more detailed documents of the pre-Doi Moi period, which included interviews with artists, art historians and critics of the period, as well as documenting material from private collections in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. For the project, Nora Taylor and Natasha Kraskaiva worked in Hanoi, while Boitran carried out interviews and collected material in Ho Chi Minh City.
Over a period of 20 days in Ho Chi Minh City, Boitran interviewed the curator and founder of Blue Space Contemporary Art in Ho Chi Minh City, Tran Thi Huynh Nga (whose late husband was the well-known artist, Tran Trung Tin), as well as eight artists about their experiences during the period 1975-1990: Truong Dinh Que, Nguyen Lam, Ho Huu Thu, Dao Minh Tri, Nguyen Quan, Uyen Huy, Nguyen Thi Tam and Rung-Nguyen Tuan Khanh. With the exception of Nguyen Quan who was born and lived in Hanoi until the 1990s, all these artists revealed the difficulties and endeavors that Vietnamese southern artists had to endure after the 1975 Fall of Saigon. The imposition of socialist realism by the new regime posed a complex challenge to those who had experienced modernism in the relatively free society of the former Republic of Vietnam during the war.
Boitran also scanned 191 pages of documents in the possession of the deceased artist Lê Van Mậu (1921-199?). This material consists of rare catalogues sponsored by the Saigon regime of the early 1970s, as well as the artist’s memoirs and his works spanning through the1930s to the 1970s.
Materials digitized under this project: