While in Ho Chi Minh City in December, I signed up for what turned out to be a world-class tour of the last 100 years of history in Vietnam through its fine art. Sophie Hughes, a British-American, has been visiting Vietnam since 2005 and permanently resided there since 2009. Her tour starts in the elegant Gao Restaurant on Le Quy Don Street, built in a massive French plantation manor. Over coffee with the guests–about eight or so folks, mostly European–Sophie lays out the plan for the day.
She will take us on a four-hour trip through four historical periods in Vietnam: the French Colonial period, the American war years in the South, the post war years, and lastly, the post Doi Moi period, or the years after economic reforms took place. She will take us in a van to several private collections and museums around Ho Chi Minh City, demonstrating in fascinating ways how history shapes art and culture.
Sophie’s amiable manner, excellent understanding of the art and preparedness, makes for a really enjoyable morning, full of revelation and surprise. Sophie introduces us to the personal stories of the artists and how they reacted to violent upheavals in their country.
Vietnamese art is really extraordinary in it’s range across cultures and time periods. One comes away from the experience with a real appreciation for the depth and beauty of Vietnamese art. I like the way Sophie passed around an iPad to present historical materials such as photographs and illustrations to build a context for what we were seeing. I would recommend Sophie’s tour to anyone interested in the art or history of Southeast Asia.
One of the most interesting stops was at Richard di San Marzano’s Dogma Gallery, featuring really good propoganda art. Richard, a painter and art advocate, is helping make Ho Chi Minh City an exciting place to experience the arts, through programs like the “Dogma Prize in Self-Portraiture.” We saw the latest winner of the Dogma Prize in Richard’s Gallery, a giant red bust. Sophie demonstrated how Vietnamese propoganda art was very different from it’s Soviet models, through the use a feminine figures and natural touches.
If you ever find yourself in Saigon, please give Sophie a call. Her tour is constantly being updated based on the current shows in town. It’s a treat.
For a limited time, and a $100 donation to the Ghost Money Indiegogo campaign, two lucky couples will receive free tickets to Sophie’s tour, redeemable within a year!
Find out more at: http://sophiesarttour.com/