The time when painters vied against each other to open personal exhibitions and galleries has passed.
For the last several years, the market for paintings in Vietnam has been falling. “It is extremely difficult to sell a painting of $1,000 upwards,” said the owner of a gallery in Hanoi.
Many say that this situation is caused by the global financial crisis. It is true but it is not all.
No local outlet for paintings
The crucial reason is Vietnam doesn’t have a market for artworks. The painting business is nearly dependent on foreign traders so when foreign traders don’t come, local galleries are full of hardships.
Perhaps foreign collectors don’t find notable artworks in Vietnam. The recent exhibition by Dinh Quan, entitled “Singing on green grassplot”, is a special one because it attracted tens of art researchers, directors of state-level museums in the US and their praise. However, at the price of $35,000-40,000 per artwork, it is really difficult for them to be sold.
Nguyen Nga, the owner of Maison des Arts (House of Arts), a familiar address for foreigners in Vietnam, said: “The global economic crisis drives away potential investors. Tourists are only keen on paintings of several hundred USD as souvenirs or to decorate their homes.”
The owner of gallery 73 Dinh Tien Hoang, Bui Minh Nguyet, who has 25 years of experience with the gallery, agreed with Nguyen Nga. She said owing to economic slowdown, the number of foreign visitors coming to Vietnam has fallen remarkably, so the number of middle-class clients of Vietnamese galleries has also reduced sharply.
To survive in this age, galleries have to sell fine-arts handicrafts, fast food, coffee, provide restaurant and real estate services like Chim Sao and Van Viet. Some professional galleries have closed or are working perfunctorily, such as gallery 73 Dinh Tien Hoang, Trang An and Mai’s.
There are many galleries along the streets of Nguyen Thai Hoc, Hang Trong, Hang Bong, Hang Gai and some small streets around Hoan Kiem Lake that sell copied paintings of world famous artists and Vietnamese ones, namely Dao Hai Phong, Le Thiet Cuong, Le Thanh Son, Dinh Quan, Dao Thanh Duy, Nguyen Thanh Binh, and Quach Dong Phuong. Some galleries even copy paintings that artists consign at cheap prices.
When they agree to buy a painting, clients always ask to see evidence to prove that the artworks they buy are the real ones because they have lost faith in galleries. According to Nguyet, galleries are being threatened because potential clients prefer to directly contact painters.
The lack of professional critics is another problem. When will Vietnam have a professional market for paintings? That question is not being answered as the infant market is infected with chronic diseases.