Will Vietnamese non-profit art space Sàn Art shift the art scene from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city? – interview Dinh Q Le

SOUTHEAST ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART

Here is a useful Art Info interview with artist Dinh Q. Le, one of the four founders of the renowned Vietnamese non-profit Sàn Art. Multimedia artist Dinh Q. Le will be having a solo show at MOMA in 2010. Read on for his perspective on the Vietnamese art scene, the challenges and opportunities ahead and how San Art is already drawing artists away from Hanoi to create a new vibrant art scene in Ho Chi Minh City.

 Sàn Art was established in 2007 as an independent, non-profit, artist-run exhibition space located in Ho Chi Minh City. The contemporary art space is completely supported by grants and individual contributions, and dedicates itself to the exchange and cultivation of contemporary art in Vietnam.

 

Interior photo of the San Art exhibition space

The focus of the interview with Dinh Q. Le is about Sàn Art’s cultural context, history, and future in Ho Chi Minh City. After frustration with trying to fund a non-for-profit organization in Vietnam, Dinh Q. Le set up the Vietnam Foundation for the Arts (VNFA) in Los Angeles with the help of his dealers Shoshana and Wayne Blank, owners of Shoshana Wayne Gallery.

Dinh Q. Le

VNFA’s original programs were focused on disseminating information about art from outside Vietnam, lecture series, and grant programs. After realizing the need to showcase artists’ works, they switched some of the funding from the VNFA lecture and artist grant programs to fund the opening of Sàn Art.

Here are some questions and responses from the interview:

What was the art scene in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) like when you first returned to Vietnam in 1993? What inspired you to get involved?

The biggest reason I wanted to do something to help was because of the respect I felt for young artists at the time. They were well trained as painters and traditional sculptors and could actually make a decent living by creating works catering to the emerging tourist art market. But they decided to abandon their traditional training and try out installation and conceptual art, even when they had little information on these practices. I thought they were very brave.

How does Sàn Art fit within the Vietnamese art system? Is it recognized by the government?

Sàn Art acts as a bridge between local and international art scenes. We are nationally recognized. All our openings have been televised nationally by government stations and written up in the local and national newspapers. I guess, in a way, they are supportive. But at the same time, they are also keeping their distance and keeping a watchful eye on us.

Photo from current exhibition titled "Collection Show" running from December 1-28. Unknown Monsters; acrylic on canvas Dimensions Variable; 2009 Artist: Tyke Witnes

How do you think Sàn Art has impacted the local art scene?

The biggest impact is that Sàn Art created a community that was not here before. Hanoi used to be the place to go if you were an international curator coming to learn about the Vietnamese contemporary art scene, but today many artists from Hanoi are considering moving to HCMC.

Upcoming solo exhibition of American artist Hap Tivey, titled "Light Shreds - 2000 Car Paintings" opening on December 31st.

With new leadership in place, a new building, and two years of experience behind you, what does the future hold for Sàn Art?

We hope that Sàn Art will have a closer working relationship with the HCMC Fine Arts Association and the HCMC Fine Arts University so that we can reach out to the older members of the Fine Arts Association and to the students at the university. Sàn Art can contribute a tremendous amount of content to their programs through our international connections. Like many artist-run spaces, our most fundamental hope is for Sàn Art to be financially stable so we can keep serving the community.

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