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Installation art, artists battle for acceptance in Viet Nam

Nguyen Nhu Huy, one of the young pioneers of Vietnamese installation art, which is slowly gathering recognition throughout the country, works hard to overcome sceptics and to find new outlets for his expressions.

"I enjoy the world of installation and performance art because it allows me to explore new creative areas," he said. Huy, a graduate of the HCM City Fine Arts College, has exhibited his work in Ha Noi, HCM City, and the US. However, like many of his colleagues, Huy sometimes feels alone because traditional artists and the public are not always open-minded about the evolving art world.

Born in Ha Noi and raised in HCM City, Huy said he has enough strength and passion to pursue his path, regardless of the difficulties.

"Installation art began around 1910, but it is still very new to Viet Nam," he said. "Many art critics don’t take young artists like me seriously. They doubt us because they think we have no authenticity and we are trying to imitate our foreign peers."

Working with his friend, artist Nguyen Thanh Truc, Huy recently opened his latest exhibition at Mai’s Gallery in HCM City.

The installation, composed of paper, cloth, and glass, is collectively named Hanh Trinh 1 &2 (Voyage 1&2). "Time passes quickly, so you should enjoy even the smallest things in your life. Don’t waste your passions," said Huy; the pair hope their exhibition will express this idea.

"Mai Gallery’s owner believes in our ability and encourages us, even though we are young," he said. Huy added he was luckier than his older colleagues, who faced even more difficulties.

One of the country’s first installation artists, Tran Luong, was refused by every gallery in Ha Noi in 1995.

"I will never forget trying to exhibit my first installation works," Luong said. "No one wanted to look at my art. Some gallery owners asked, ‘What is installation art? Can I sell it?’"

Luong finally found a patron for his work; a French gallery owner helped make his dream come true. His exhibition, named Khoi Thuy (The Initial Stage), was the first of its kind in Viet Nam.

As foreign artists have begun to work and exhibit in Viet Nam, the nation’s contemporary art scene has developed faster. Along with the growing wave of new trends in visual fine arts, young pioneers have taken a keen interest in the world of installation and performance art.

Some private galleries, in addition to State-owned venues, prefer to support such artists because of their growing popularity. The Ford Foundation, the Goethe Institute and other foreign organisations have also sponsored installation and performance exhibitions by young artists.

However, art organisations across the country, including the Viet Nam Fine Art Association, open about 3,000 exhibitions a year, but they still have not included the new genre, reported Nguoi Lao Dong (The Labourer) newspaper.

VNS - (08/09/2004)

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