Ask any art galleries about the most likely customers for their artworks, particularly paintings, and the answer for the most parts will be international buyers.
A local market for fine arts, say many insiders and observers, has yet to emerge, which is a matter of great concerns for many artwork lovers and enthusiasts. Reality shows that the path ahead is still long to be walked if the local market is to touch professional standards.
As galleries are opening exhibitions more regularly to lure customers, their business is so dependent on international buyers, although a genuine market for paintings can only be developed with more local buyers. These days, art galleries find their business more gloomy as in most cases foreigners just walk past their shops without even casting a glance.
Many blame the global economic slowdown for the current circumstance. This is just part of the scene, however, as the paintings market in Vietnam has continuously been ebbing for the last several years.
Lack of conditions
Conditions for a developed paintings market in Vietnam are still inefficient, say practitioners.
The country still lacks regulated procedures for managing, preserving, assessing and trading paintings meeting international standard, says famous painter and critic Phan Cam Thuong. Therefore, he says, Vietnam cannot integrate itself into the international market simply because it has nothing for integration in the absence of a professional domestic market, according to VietNamNet.
“Activities promoting Vietnamese paintings abroad are spontaneously, largely dependent on personal relationships of painters or galleries and not organized professionally and strategically,” comments a local painting collector.
Therefore, galleries have to be a bridge between painters and collectors, as galleries are not only venues for displaying and for selling paintings, but also providing information about fine arts, and value of the artworks to stimulate admiration from customers, says the critic on Tuoi Tre.
Moreover, in Vietnam there are few curators who have the ability to find good painters and paintings and then to introduce them to arts critics, public and arts lovers. In contemporary painting galleries such as Quynh, San Art, curators are foreigners, so their exhibitions are mainly for works created by foreign artists.
The business itself, according to galleries, is also highly risky.
Hai Son, owner of Tu Do (Liberty) Gallery that has been operating in HCM City for 20 years, explains how the painting business is facing uncertainties. Son says his gallery often displays high-quality artworks, but the tastes of art lovers are varied alongside the different styles of artists, and the number of customers cannot measure artists’ talent.
A market for fine arts will be sustainable when its domestic customers account for 70% or so, but Vietnamese customers for fine arts are so modest, by 20-30%.
“I know the painting business at this time is difficult but my compassion for arts has helped me overcome the tough time. I hope Van Art will be a place for arts exchanges including the exchange of creativity among artists,” says Vu Khanh Van, owner of Gallery Van Art in HCM City.
Confidence in need
For many art lovers, the widespread availability of copycats is eroding their confidence. Some galleries even copy famous paintings for sales at cheap prices, and fake paintings are spreading far and wide. When agreeing to buy a painting, clients always ask to see evidence that the artworks they buy are authentic because they have lost faith in galleries. Therefore, galleries are being threatened because potential clients prefer to directly contact painters, said a painting collector.
For certain painters, it is the skills that matter, not creativity, as seen in the rampant copycats on the market reproduced from famous paintings or masterpieces. This reason has closed the door to the world for Vietnamese painting market, says a Vietnamese painter, as reported by Vietbao.