Hue school criticized for neglecting school artworks

Left unattended and exposed to the elements for years, thousands of works by former instructors and students of the Hue University of Arts have been seriously damaged.

A statue depicting a girl playing zither now has one arm left at the school yard of Hue University of Arts Photo: Tuoi Tre
A statue depicting a girl playing zither now has one arm left at the school yard of Hue University of Arts Photo: Tuoi Tre

Oil painting found in…the toilet

According to Nguyen Duc Huy, head of the school’s Science, Technology and International Cooperation Department, when he returned to Vietnam from France in 2009, he was shocked to find an oil painting by one of his former classmates hung in the toilet.

The instructor was later astounded to know the Painting Department had liquidated all graduating artworks of its students during the schools’ 10 training courses at a dirt cheap price.

Since then, artworks made by instructors and students at the school have still been left outdoor, unprotected and uncared-for. Plaster and cement statues are damaged, cracked, chipped away and broken, while paintings are piled up in a corner and left to gradually but irreversibly deteriorate.

“It hurts seeing valuable works of many generations of instructors and artists scattered on the school yard. Almost all of them have been damaged or ruined,” a former instructor lamented when he returned to visit the school.

55-year-old art school has no gallery

Hue University of Arts has been operating for 55 years and produced many talented artists for the local fine arts industry, such as Ton That Dao, Dinh Cuong, Pham Dang Tri, Ton That Van and Le Thanh Nhon.
However, the school has to date had no gallery to exhibit and preserve works by its instructors and students.

“The school doesn’t have any plan to preserve its artworks. This is a serious loss not only to students but also the whole school. This is definitely a lack of memory and a rejection of the school’s tradition,” Nguyen Duc Huy said angrily.

Vo Xuan Huy, instructor in the Department of Applied Arts, said graduating works of high quality are the brand name and the hallmark of the training quality of an art school.

“Fine art is a history of artworks. Without a gallery and serious preservation effort, the people will have reason to question the school’s training quality, not to mention a big waste when the school throws its artworks away,” he added.

For his part, principal Phan Thanh Binh explained that the school has never intended to sell or destroy the students’ works. He also added that most of the school paintings were damaged in a flood in 1999 so the school had to either destroy or sell them.

“So far we still haven’t got enough money to build the classrooms, let alone building a museum to display and store the works,” he explained.

In recent years, graduating works of students of arts have begun to be noticed. Though not widely popular, some local painting collectors have started to buy students’ graduating works from arts schools.Le Thai Son, owner of the Ho Chi Minh City-based Le Thai Son gallery, says if arts schools have exhibitions to showcase their students’ graduating artworks, interested collectors like him will have opportunity the reach them as well as preserving the students artworks after they graduate.