This article was published on Art Radar on 1 August 2014.
From the postwar to Vietnam’s economic boom, Tu Do Gallery has been running successfully for a quarter of a century in Ho Chi Minh City.
Over a decade after the unification of Vietnam, the regime’s Doi Moi reforms allowed private enterprises to be formed. One of the first of these enterprises was Tu Do art gallery. 25 years later, it continues to operate from its base in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).
I asked the owner Mr Dang Son, who is now 78, the same question that many of his friends had asked him when he started out: how could an art gallery survive in a country with so many pressing needs? ‘Luckily’, he smiles.
In the late 80s, husband and wife Son and Ha reunited after his return from a re-education camp. The couple lived in a house on the centrally located Dong Khoi street (formerly Tu Do, meaning freedom), which they renovated to turn into a shop. When Nguyen Tuan Khanh, the artist better known as Rung, suggested that he exhibit his paintings in their house, the would-be shop became the first private gallery in South Vietnam.
There was no artistic activity in the city, the gallery owner explains, because there were virtually no public or private art spaces in fresh-faced Vietnam.
Read the full article on Art Radar here.
Text and photos (2010-2014) by Cristina Nualart