Art Director Nguyen Anh Tuan: Flexible model will encourage creativity

Thursday, 2017-12-07 10:41:20
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A corner of the Heritage Space during the Months of Arts Practice
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NDO – There have been more and more contemporary art exhibitions held around the country and abroad, which have gradually attracted public attention and are considered as important information channels in the visual arts life.

In Vietnam, young artists are increasingly interested in these experimental art forms. Nguyen Anh Tuan, art director of Heritage Space (in Hanoi), granted an interview to a Nhan Dan (People) Weekly reporter to share about how to encourage young contemporary artists to promote their creative potential.

Vietnam has many young talents

Q: After two terms of the Months of Arts Practice (MAP) launched by the Heritage Space both this year and last, many very young and new faces appeared. How do you assess them?

A: Not only the Heritage Space but also many other contemporary art sites in Vietnam have attracted the participation of young people under 25 years old. They are artists, volunteers and audiences of the arts. Despite the limitations in infrastructure for contemporary arts, many young artists have great potential for creativity, which is a highlight of the Vietnamese contemporary arts life in relation to Southeast Asia and Asia.

Q: An experienced contemporary artist said that the artists of his generation practice contemporary arts because of their eagerness for new experiences; however many younger artists pursue these forms for their ‘trend and fashion’. Do you think this is one of the reasons why the number of artists and viewers of contemporary arts has gradually increased in recent years?

A: I remember since the mid-1990s, when painting attracted numerous foreign buyers, the number of fine art students has soared. In Vietnam, other sectors, such as banking, finance and information technology, have similar trends.

The appeal of contemporary arts is its international reputation and the ability to connect with the world. Many artists of older generations, such as Tran Luong and Le Quang Dinh, as well as younger artists, including Uu Dam Tran Nguyen, Bui Cong Khanh, Nguyen Phuong Linh and Phan Thao Nguyen, have been successful in bringing Vietnamese contemporary arts to the world.

In addition, this art form was attractive because it could create challenges, as well as inspire the creativity in young people’s thinking and emotions. However, I saw that many young artists appeared only once or twice, even though they had made remarkable works.

Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge for young artists when joining contemporary arts? And, which criteria does the Heritage Space and yoursself use to select and seek young artists?

A: It is not easy to create a contemporary artwork. It takes a lot of money and time for young artists to make contemporary artworks, but it is very difficult for them to earn money through the trade. For example, a video art piece can cost hundreds of millions of Vietnamese dong (including expenses for technology, techniques, labour, time and field trips); however, it can be placed in a memory store after being released somewhere. In the activities of the contemporary art space at the Heritage Space, we want to find young artists who have great passion in this art form, as well as those that can commit themselves to the career.

Coordination of internal resources

Q: Since 2011, the triennial national youth fine art festival has attracted a large number of participants, while the Ho Chi Minh City youth fine art festival is held biennially. However, I saw that at the events, there have been few contemporary artworks. What do you think about this?

A: It must be said that the way in which the festivals for young people and contemporary arts like that were organised was contrary to similar events in the region and the world. In fact, the national youth fine art festival is not different from the model of the national fine art exhibition. The artists sent photos of their works and an art council selected the most outstanding entries. Meanwhile, to prepare a contemporary art event in the region and the world, the organising board had to invite the art director, as well as a group of curators, at least 2-3 years before the event. They would set the theme, the event’s framework and specific research programmes, in addition to meeting and inviting artists to order or directly select works through other collections and exhibitions. Therefore, the professional quality of a contemporary art exhibition would be better than an event where the art council passively waited for submitted entries to select.

Q: From the operation of your art space, could you make some suggestions to promote the support for young artists?

A: In fact, the State allocates a large budget to support cultural and artistic activities through the management agencies and professional associations. An arts foundation should be launched, using a part of the State budget.

For contemporary arts, the foundation can support the selection of an art council consisting of experts with high professionalism in organising, curating and researching art activities. The Culture Development and Exchange Fund (CDEF), launched by the Danish Embassy in Vietnam, has operated successfully with a moderate budget.

In addition, management agencies should further empower artists to take legal responsibility for their artworks, as well as be more flexible in connecting independent professionals and contemporary art centres to jointly organise national events, corresponding to the potential and actual development of the art life in the country. With these changes, I believe that fine art events such as the national fine arts festival would have a different look.

Thank you very much!

Over the past three years, Heritage Space has been considered as an attractive destination for Vietnamese contemporary arts. With an exhibition area of over 1,000 square metres, the centre has continuously held a wide variety of exhibitions, art practice activities and talk shows, featuring the participation of numerous domestic and foreign artists. The MAP event is an outstanding success of Heritage Space, attracting dozens of artists from many countries around the world.

Art director Nguyen Anh Tuan