Much of Viet Nam’s best artwork is at risk of deterioration if museums and exhibition halls do not improve storage conditions and restoration work, say artists and experts.
Painter Phan Trong Van says that museums’ art varies in material, size and theme, so it needs to be classified properly and stored accordingly in different temperatures, light and humidity.
“Preservation conditions should be the same between storage and exhibition rooms so that the work is not be damaged during exhibitions,” he said.
Painter Nguyen Dinh Dang, who currently lives in Japan, said that art museums in many countries are always kept at 17-33Â°C with a humidity set at 45-55 per cent.
Direct sunlight and dust should be avoided because they may alter the pigments of the artwork as well as the canvas and frame, he said.
Over the last five years, the HCM City Fine Arts Museum has spent billions of dong buying art.
A source from the museum said the institution would spend around VND5 billion (US$286,900) this year on war paintings by southern artists.
Yet the museum does not have current plans to invest in preservation even though about 20 per cent of stored paintings are at risk of damage due to substandard facilities, said the source.
Van said that not a single domestic art institute offered academic training in art restoration.
Viet Nam sent a number of artists to Eastern Europe to study art restoration in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but most quit the subject; often turning to painting or drawing. Some had to look for more lucrative professions.
“Not every artist who draws or paints understands restoration work, but one should spend at least three years drawing to get the experience necessary for restoration,” Van said.
A restorer should be an expert in chemistry to understand the reaction between substances and oil paintings, he said.
Van said that museums have not invested in restoration, exhibitions or publicity about their purchased works, comparing it to a family buying a fridge without having the money to pay for the electricity to run it.
“This is one of reasons why many art works, especially ones which museums throughout the country collected more than ten years ago, have been seriously damaged,” he said.
There are some self-taught restorers in HCM City, Ha Noi and Hue, many of whom have successfully restored paintings on do (poonah paper) and lacquer work.
Luu Quoc Binh, who has a collection of 257 oil on canvas paintings, 190 water colour paintings and many sketches by painter Luu Cong Nhan (1929-2007), said he would like to hold a public exhibit of the work. But Binh is worried about damage; Nhan was a master of “one stroke” water-colour paintings, which would be very difficult to restore, said Binh.
Binh said that artists themselves can help extend the life-span of their works by carefully processing materials before and during the drawing process.
Painter Pham Dang Tri, for example, took great care in preparing materials for his paintings on silk and poonah paper.
“If a single drop of water fell onto the surface of the poonah paper, which he had spent a whole month preparing, Tri would throw the (poonah paper) sheet away,” Binh said, “That’s why many of Tri’s paintings are still in good condition.”
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News