Saigon’s contemporary art scene is evolving rapidly and the city’s list of galleries is growing. Here’s a sampler of where art-philes can go to gawk or buy.
Firstly, any one interested in art should visit the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts and its collection that includes the colonial period, combat art and 90’s abstract, housed in an exquisite French colonial/Chinese mansion. We also recommend Sophie’s Art Tour, an enlightening half day presentation that brings visitors up to speed on the major changes the country has gone through in the past two centuries and explains how Vietnamese art has evolved up to present day. The tour includes the museum as well as other select galleries.
One of the stops on our Sophie’s Art Tour was a gallery and antique shop owned by Vietnamese artist Le Hien Minh. Atiq Sai Gon (formerly Antique Street) features both her own work and the work of other artists.
Across the river in District 2, The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre is a multipurpose hub of exhibitions, workshops, talks and performances in a funky, industrial space, likely one of the city’s largest devoted to art. There’s usually always an exhibition to drop in on (as well as their vegan cafe). Check their website for special events.
Located in the residence of US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr during the 1960s, the house has been transformed into Salon Saigon, a chic, elegant gallery showcasing contemporary art, with a focus on drawing. There’s a permanent collection and usually an exhibition. It’s also a library and venue for special talks and screenings. Officially Salon Saigon is only open on Tuesdays but just give them a call on other days except Sundays for a visit.
Moving over to the commercial side, the city has an abundance of gallery shops to browse. And browse you must in eye-catching Lotus Gallery, a multi-storey shop that has made clever use of the narrow space by mounting art on layers of sliding panels. If it’s a flat surface, it has canvas on it and it’s amazing just to see the reveal as staff eagerly shift panels around. We met the owner who explained most of these Vietnamese artists were from Hue, with a few from Ho Chi Minh City. The artwork runs the gamut of small to large scale works. All these galleries are adept at worldwide shipping.
Apricot Gallery is a stylish space with high quality local art. It’s an impressive space spread over five floors and in contrast to Lotus Gallery, the large pieces are displayed museum style, each bold canvas really made to shine.
Apricot Gallery 50-52 Mac Thi Buoi, District 1; T: (028) 3822 7962; http://apricotgallery.com.vn/; Mo–Su: 08:30–20:30.
Atiq Sai Gon 38 Le Cong Kieu, District 1; T: (0168) 481 0093; https://www.facebook.com/atiqsaigon/; Mo–Sa: 10:00–17:00.
Lotus Gallery 100 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1; T: (028) 3829 2695; http://www.lotusgallery.vn/; Mo–Su: 09:00–18:00.
Salon Saigon 6D Ngo Thoi Nhiem, Ward 7, District 3; http://www.salonsaigon.com/; Tu: 09:00–18:00, by appointment other days.
The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre 15 Nguyen U Di, Thao Dien Ward, District 2; T: (028) 3744 2589; http://factoryartscentre.com/; Tu–Su: 10:00-19:00.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you'll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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