Artists are often the ideal cultural bridge, and this is especially true in Vietnam where many prominent artists have exhibited abroad, are fluent in English, and are astute observers of their own culture. We're always happy to make introductions with artists in Hanoi, where many of the country's leading artists are based and most we know personally from our long experience, organizing the very first arts tours of Vietnam in 1994, when artists were only beginning to emerge from a long post-war slumber and poor economy. What a difference a couple of decades makes. Vietnam's artists have since claimed the world-stage and the arts scene is Hanoi is one of the most vigorous in Asia. Meet privately with the country's most renowned artists and learn of new mediums, including lacquer and thread art.
Dan Bau blues in the Old Quarter. One of the most remarkable aspects of the Water Puppets theater is the music and primarily the enchanting sound of the Đàn Bau, a traditional single-stringed instrument (now amplified) that creates a moody, bluesy sound. Let us arrange a visit into the Old Quarter family who
Plays at the Water Puppets Theater, witnessing their daughter play (right) and having a chance to learn how to play the instrument yourself. We recommend this over the Water Puppets show, although younger children will delight in the private Water Puppets experience we can arrange.
VX Art Gallery. Co-managed by our own Diep To, this Dong Da District showroom is the place to see example from all artists we know personally in Hanoi.
Khac Quan was born and grew up near the renowned Bat Trang ceramic village. Khac Quan's clay works have made a strong impression as well as his ability to control the intricate porcelain making technique as form of sculpture. With Quan people witness his modern style and sophistication interpreted using only simple soil and enamel.
Dinh Quan Dinh Quan (right) is one Vietnam's premier artists, working on large lacquer and sculpture. His home gallery, in the heart of the bohemian enclave on the West Lake, is a fascinating visit and he is a gracious host who is fluent in English.
Lionel Descostes, a French artist, has been taking on the Vietnamese embroidery "painting" technique (canvases appear to be in oil but up close are actually thread - sewn art work) and has reinvented it in his own way, moving it out of the realm of traditional craft and semi-artistic production onto the stage of contemporary art. Tran Hieu is a painter, antique collector and dealer. Out of many antique collectors in the capital, Tran Hieu stands out. Born and raised in a Noble family in Hanoi, he inherited a rich collection of antique dating back up to five generations. Hieu continues to trade and collect from inside as well as outside of Vietnam. The collection includes wood, lacquer Buddhas and exotic statues, ancient ceramic, stone, porcelain, bronze drums from the Dong Son civilization which date back from thousand years ago.
Artist Viet Thanh lived and taught fine art, including painting, sculpture, lacquer, woodblock print in Sweden, but has recently moved back to Hanoi and is living and working from her White Lotus villa near the West Lake bohemian enclave.
Artist Mai Anh is a widely recognized painter whose works have been exhibited in Asia, Australia, Europe, Bermuda and the United States. Solo exhibitions include Santa Barbara, West Hollywood, and Carmel Valley. The paintings of Mai Anh are, according to Ian Findlay-Brown, Editor/Publisher of Asian Art News, "quietly emotional and determined. In her impressionistic/expressionistic oeuvre she goes her own way, mining her memories and her experience and observing the rituals and concerns of women around her."
The works of Van Duong Thanh (above, right) show European influences of Impressionism, Expressionism, and semi abstract. She has combined harmoniously between these and Asian styles. She has had over fifty exhibitions around the world, including France, the U.S., Sweden, Singapore, and Germany with over 1,500 of her works in private reputable collections and art museums.
Water Puppets Theater is a fascinating, traditional performance art unique to Vietnam. We can arrange a private, hands-on performance learning the history of the art, stagecraft, and manipulation of the puppets with Master Puppeteer Mr. Phan Thanh Liem in his Hanoi studio. Children will be delighted and we will arrange water puppets gifts for your children after the performance.
Bui Mai Hien is one of a few groundbreaking Vietnamese painters (including Dinh Quan) who has taken traditional lacquer art and moved it forward into contemporary expression.
Pham Thi Kieu Phuc is a celebrated and innovative interior designer who founded Module 7. Phuc loves the silent, discreet nature of lacquer products and her designs have many origins. Some are inspired by the objects of Vietnamese everyday life; colonial hat, fish trap, buffalo, rock and trees. Others are inspired by Japanese design principles, following the Zen philosophy ‘less is more'. She especially likes bronze handmade products, as she feels that the hammers marks left in the product reveal the artisan's emotion. "If you buy a designer product, the most interesting thing is the creativity of the person who designed it" Phuc claims. More on Phuc Pham.
Dao Anh Khanh Tuong National Theater Troupe. Tuong was established in the 12th century and in the 17th century it was very much in vogue. The Tuong plays consist of songs and dances which are highly stylized, conventional and imbued with symbolism similar to Peking Opera. We can arrange a private visit to the beautiful theater house in the Old Quarter to meet privately with the troupe of actors in person. For families, the troupe will organize a full production with makeup, costumes and acting on the stage, a delightful experience.
Dao Anh Khanh (right) is a surrealist painter and controversial performance artist. He moves easily between painting canvasses, acrylic and lacquer with his very own technique. He may paint himself white and dance for hours in his own highly individual style. As a performance artist, Anh Khanh has performed all over the world including New York, Europe, and throughout Asia. Khanh is an internationally recognized leader among Asian artists who are breaking away from traditional, stylistic, and political constrains.
Musician Pham Chi Khanh is a traditional instrument maker and player who has been applying his passion in traditional music for more than 30 years. In 2010, he was in top of 100 "most special people" of 1000th anniversary of Hanoi city. Mr. Pham's daughter is a prodigy on the bluesy instrument, the Dan Bau, and will instruct you hands on if you would like.
Vietnamese calligraphy once played an important part, but is a disappearing from Vietnamese culture. Calligraphy has had a long history in Vietnam, previously using Chinese characters along with Chu Nôm. However, most modern Vietnamese calligraphy instead uses the Roman-character based Quoc Ngu, which has proven to be very popular.
In the past, with literacy in the old character-based writing systems of Vietnam being restricted to scholars and elites, calligraphy nevertheless still played an important part in Vietnamese life. On special occasions such as the Lunar New Year, people would go to the village teacher or scholar to make them a calligraphy hanging (often poetry, folk sayings or even single words). People who could not read or write also often commissioned at temple shrines. Calligraphy is still popular for sign motifs and advertising. We can arrange a workshop with a master of the art during your visit to Hanoi.
Arts for Children
Water puppets, traditional theater, theater, thread art, ceramics, performance art, laughing yoga, lacquer hands-on, galleries. Read more on our Vietnam Family Tours.