Culture Culture

22/02/2019 - 08:09

“Hunting” artworks for Hue Museum of Fine Arts

In preparation for the establishment of Hue Museum of Fine Arts, one began to search for artworks nearly 20 years ago. Up to now, the museum has obtained 25 works, many of which, according to art experts, cannot be bought now even with much money.

Many valuable paintings

To the members of the Appraisal Council in charge of purchasing paintings for the museum, 2018 is a productive year.

The painter Nguyen Dai Giang (overseas Vietnamese in America, far left) donated his work to Hue Museum of Fine Arts through the Department of Culture and Sports.

With the fund of VND 1 billion from the budget of the province, the three valuable works by the three famous painters from Hue have been collected. They are “Young woman by Lotuses" (silk) by Ton That Dao, “Reincarnation of a City - No. 39" (oil paint) by Vinh Phoi and "Hanging on the time" (oil paint) by Buu Chi.

According to the painter Dang Mau Tuu, member of the Executive Board of Vietnam Fine Art Association - a member of the Appraisal Council, these 3 works are worth being displayed because they are typical works by the three well-known painters. To the circle of painters, the three paintings had been bought at a very good price. At the moment, even with lots of money, one cannot buy them.

Mr. Tuu said in order to buy such precious works, one had to find out information and come to the owners’ houses to have a look, report to the Appraisal Council so that they would make a plan, then persuade and negotiate with the sellers. Sometimes it took tens of times of persuasion before the owners allowed them to take a look. However, having a look and buying are two different things. In order to obtain such works, one needs chances, and luck, too.

According to Dang Mau Tuu, over time, the best works of many famous painters have scattered in many places. But with all their effort, the members of the Appraisal Council have purchased successfully some valuable works.

According to the researcher Nguyen Xuan Hoa, Former Director of the Department of Culture and Information, the hunt for artworks for Hue Museum of Fine Arts was started in as early as 2000s. 

"Hanging on the Time" (oil paint, 80cm x 100cm) by Buu Chi has now belonged to Hue Museum of Fine Arts

By cutting expenditures from the operation fund for culture during 2000-2007, the Department of Culture and Information successfully purchased 12 works by Hue artists, who had won regional and national prizes, including paintings by famous artists such as Truong Be, Le Van Nhuong, Dang Mau Tuu, To Tran Bich Thuy, Do Ky Hoang, etc.

According to Mr. Hoa, the collecting of works at that time was welcomed by artists and art lovers, which encouraged their support and painting donation for the future Hue Museum of Fine Arts.

In 2016, at an exhibition in Hue, the painter Nguyen Dai Giang (overseas Vietnamese in America) donated 3 works of his. In 2017, through the exhibition on the occasion of the Tradition Day of Vietnamese Fine Arts, the Department of Culture and Sports received 7 works more, raising the number to 25. 

In 2019, the collecting of works by such famous artists as Mai Trung Thu, Hoang Dang Nhuan, Phan Xuan Sanh, Le Yen, Trinh Cung, Ton That Van, Nguyen Do Cung, Dinh Cuong, Duong Dinh Sang, etc. was planned too. Besides the painting Pho (Street) by Hoang Dang Nhuan, the Appraisal Council began to access a work by Mai Trung Thu. It is said that another museum in Vietnam wants to buy that painting at the price of up to VND 1 billion.

It will be a unique and worthwhile museum 

According to the project of establishing Hue Museum of Fine Arts, the museum will possess many collections of painting, graphics, sculpture; unique, typical and valuable works by famous artisans in painted enamel, lacquer, glass painting, mother-of-pearl inlay, wood carving, bronze casting, pottery, embroidery, Dzèng weaving, etc., belonging to the 3 periods: 1800-1945, 1946-2000 and the period from 2001 now.

Vinh Phoi’s “Reincarnation of a City - No. 39)" (oil paint, 160cm x 160cm) was successfully collected by Hue Museum of Fine Arts

Particularly, the list of famous and typical Hue artists in the early decades of the 20th century has now reached over 50 painters, including such big names as Le Van Mien, Pham Dang Tri, Ton That Sa, etc.

According to the researcher Nguyen Xuan Hoa, besides painting and sculpture, Hue, with its long history of fine arts, boasts many other original values such as glass painting by Le Quang Dinh and Trinh Hoai Duc in Gia Long’s era, painted enamel, mother-of-pearl inlay, bronze casting, etc. Sinh -Village paintings representing folklore art also leaves a good impression for its simplicity and modesty. With the accumulated artworks and others from now on, Hue Museum of Fine Arts, when taking shape, will be certainly very attractive, creating a unique impression and matching the important position of Hue culture. 

According to Dang Mau Tuu, what needs to be done right now when the museum was already established (on November 12, 2018) is making a more complete plan to hunt for other precious artworks. First of all, give priority to the artists who have passed away. The province should soon decide on a place to display and receive the works sold at good prices in support of the museum or painting donators who want to confide their creations to Hue Museum of Fine Arts with special respect.

Mr. Phan Van Thao, Deputy Head of Cultural Management Bureau (Department of Culture and Sports) said that to increase the number of artworks in the collections for Hue Museum of Fine Arts, the Board of Culture and Sports is to receive 30-40 works presented by Vietnam Fine Art Association and takes part in selecting some typical sculptures, including Champa masterpieces. A well-known painter also promised to donate 4 of his valuable works to Hue Museum of Fine Arts on the condition that the museum will be granted a proper location. 

Facilitating the purchasing of artworks

In late November 2018, at the meeting with the Department of Culture and Sports in preparation for the announcement of the establishment of Hue Museum of Fine Arts, Mr. Phan Ngoc Tho, Chairman of the Provincial People's Committee, emphasized that the museum must be big, luxurious and worthwhile. The important thing is to find a suitable location to display its rich, diverse and valuable art collections. 

Regarding artwork collecting, he proposed collecting works by famous artists. The province will facilitate the purchase providing that they are really works of value. 

According to the project, the fund for the museum in 2018 is VND 1 billion; in 2019-2020, VND 3 billion per year, and in 2021-2025, VND 5 billion each.

Story: Kim Oanh - Phan Thanh

Photos: Phan Thanh – Dept. of Culture and Sports