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Vietnam Fine Arts Museum

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The Vietnam Fine Arts Museum has one of the best and most diverse art collections in the country, and a visit here will provide some good insight into Vietnamese culture and history.

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The museum is set in a stunning three-storey, 1930s-era building, originally ordered built by the French to house the daughters of the colonial elite, who travelled from all over Indochina to Hanoi to study. After a renovation in the 1960s, during which some traditional architectural elements of Vietnamese communal houses were added, the museum was opened in 1966.

Beautiful artworks, beautiful building. Photo taken in or around Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

Beautiful artworks, beautiful building. Photo: Samantha Brown

Some 3,000 permanent exhibits are on display, including sculptures, paintings and lacquerworks, arranged chronologically from bottom to top. While some information is provided in English, to get a real sense of the meaning of the works and how they relate to Vietnamese history, we'd advise either hiring a guide here—though we didn't try one so can't say how good they might be—or hopping on to one of Sophie's Art Tours. No audio guide is available.

Exhibits throughout are generally well-captioned. An attempt is made to put each room into a larger context, but the text is not always comprehensible and tends to spout the government's perspective—you won't read how the government forced artists to switch from their French-, then Japanese-enforced styles to socialist realism.

A thousand-armed, thousand-eyed Avalokiteshvara, from 1656. Photo taken in or around Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

A thousand-armed, thousand-eyed Avalokiteshvara, from 1656. Photo: Samantha Brown

Look closely too as some works are reproductions (and not very good ones at that). They may be labelled as such, but sometimes Vietnamese artists made several copies of their own work—as was the Vietnamese way—and it's not always clear even to experts today which ones are the original or the final works intended for display by the artist. Many artworks were also destroyed during the American War and some have not been maintained well enough ... Travelfish members only (Around 500 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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Vietnam Fine Arts Museum
66 Nguyen Thai Hoc St, Hanoi
Daily 08:30-17:00
T: (04) 3733 2131 F: (04) 3734 1427;
Admission: Adults/children: 40,000/20,000 dong. Guided tour: 150,000 dong.

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