Worth a browse—for the building and the art
Established in 1987, the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum houses works of art by Vietnamese artists on three floors, each floor representing its own section.
The French colonial-era building itself is a work of art. The mansion was constructed in 1929 to 1934 by real estate moguls Hui Bon Hoa, one of the wealthiest family empires of Cochinchina. It was designed by the same French architect who had designed their Majestic Hotel. Upon entering, take a moment to admire the wrought iron scroll work with “HBH”. Some of the features of the building, such as the elevator, are original while the tiles and stained glass are later additions.
The first floor is home to a variety of pieces, most of which are small sketches or paintings of famous Communist figures. The second floor is dedicated to works of 20th century and contemporary Vietnamese artists, including a collection of modern sculpture, examples of propaganda and an impressive collection of lacquer art. On the top floor (which is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Hoa’s daughter) are examples of art created from the seventh through to the 20th centuries and pieces of Cham, Khmer and Oc Eo art.
We highly recommend Sophie’s Art Tour, which will bring the museum and Vietnam’s history to life. The half day tour explains 20th and 21st century Vietnam through the lens of art, focussing on key works housed in the museum. Beyond the canvas, the deeper meaning, the literal and figurative picture of the socio-political climate, is revealed.
You don’t need to be an art snob to appreciate the works and the building. Someone who has an interest in art may be able to trace how the classical training at the colonial Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts de L’Indochine in Hanoi has influenced modern Vietnamese art.
The North Vietnamese combat art, where artists were literally sent to the front lines armed with pen and paper, will be a stark contrast to the US military photography you’ve likely seen in history books or at the War Remnants Museum. But do Sophie’s Art Tour if you can, as the museum has little signage or information on the art or artist. The tour includes several different galleries.
The museum is not air-conditioned and the heat can be stifling so going earlier is more comfortable temperature-wise. Also note that there is no working lift.
Address: 97A Pho Duc Chinh St, Nguyen Thai Binh, District 1
T: (08) 3829 4441;
Coordinates (for GPS): 106º41'57.77" E, 10º46'12.23" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: 10,000 dong
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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