Vietnam is the home of an exciting creative artist community and one of the most celebrated styles in the world. Here are Vietnam’s top ten galleries – from Hanoi to Saigon – revealing the dynamism of the nation’s contemporary culture.
If you’re after an unusual contemporary art experience in Hanoi, give DOCLAB a try. Focusing almost exclusively on video art and documentary film, the space is less of a gallery and more of a laboratory, as the name meaning. Founded in 2009, the space has garnered acclaim for its non-traditional ‘exhibitions’ of experimental documentary. DOCLAB also roundly supports the learning process, offering workshops, courses, and discussion groups to film students. Screenings of films by local video artists are open to visitors and students, as are accompanying discussions.
Address: 95 Giang Văn Minh Street, Đội Cấn Ward, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
2. Institut Français de Hanoï
The Institut Français de Hanoï aims to promote cross-cultural exchange through language classes, lectures, movies, debates, readings, performances, and exhibitions. There are 5 floors in the building, occupied with cultural offerings from within a former printing house in the heart of Hanoi. The program includes exhibitions of landscape photography, talks on architecture, and jazz cabaret nights.
Address: 24-26 Tràng Tiền Street, French Quarter, Hanoi
3. Goethe Institut
The Goethe Institut offers a dynamic range of cultural projects in Hanoi. Concerts, film festivals, art exhibitions, and dance performances all regularly feature on the agenda at the expansive space. Funded in part by the German government, the Goethe Institut specializes in cultural exchange project between Asia and Europe. Supported programs see Vietnamese artists on trips to Germany and vice versa to spark a running dialogue between the two countries.
Address: 18 Số 1 Street, Cư xá Đô Thành, Ward 4, Ho Chi Minh City
4. Nha San Studio
Vietnam is still a Communist country with heavy restrictions on information and freedom expression. But since 1998, artist-led non-profit Nha San has been highlighting the difficulties of creating art under as rigid circumstances, providing materials and emotional support to artists in an effort to combat this. Nha San Studio showcases the likes of sound and video installations in what’s considered an ‘underground’ gallery.
Address: 1 Le Thi Hong Gam Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
5. San Art
Sàn Art is a hub for creative minds in Vietnam. A platform for experimentation (sàn meaning ‘platform’), Sàn Art is led by Zoe Butt, whose pan-Asian curatorial expertise results in projects that both challenge and highlight regional art forms. Sàn Art kickstarted some of the country’s most innovative programs, including Vietnam’s only long-term artist residency program: the Sàn Art Laboratory. The space also runs Sàn Art Productions, working with art businesses to find resources for underfunded projects.
Address: 3 Mê Linh Street, Ward 19, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City
6. Zero Station
Zero Station is a tiny space, but it has an immeasurable impact on the Saigon art scene. The process-based gallery offers two ground-breaking residency program: the Packed Program for non-locals who wish to visit Ho Chi Minh City, and the Intensive Program that offers the opportunity to work with a local artist on a project. Through these initiatives, Zero Station has become one of the city’s most exciting institutions.
Founder, curator, artist, and writer Nguyen Nhu Huy is renowned for his innovation; he also founded the artist-run space Blah Blah, and from 2003 until 2005 he co-founded and edited vnvisualart.com – the country’s first visual art magazine.
Adress: 43 Lâm Văn Bền Street, Bình Thuận Ward, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City
Nguyen Tan Loc is the founder of the country’s only modern dance company, Arabesque. From the Saigon studio, the company gives performances and workshops in classical, modern, and contemporary dance, and offers courses in everything from audition techniques to stage lighting. Incorporating the culture and history of Vietnam into the vernacular of contemporary dance is Nguyen’s raison d’etre, and Arabesque’s annual international tours bring the Southeast Asian nation’s culture to a broader audience.
Address: 25 Phan Phu Tien Street, Ward 10, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City
8. Art House Gallery
Away from the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s two major cities, the nation’s artists need support and space to flourish. This is where organizations like Art House Vietnam Gallery (Danang-Hoi An) play a vital role. The only national gallery focused on young contemporary artists from Vietnam, Art House Vietnam has supported local talent since it opened in 2004.
Founder Vu Trong Anh uses the initiative to represent locally established artists, such as Dino Nguyen and Vo Xuan Huy, as well as emerging artists like Bui Tien Tuan, Siu Quy, Mai Huy Dung, and Tu Quyen. All the work in both Hoi An and Danang spaces is available to buy and offers a peek into the contemporary visual art scene of Vietnam away from the big cities.
Address: 692 Hai Ba Trung Street, Hoi An
Saigon’s Dia/Projects is more than a space – it’s a ‘contemporary art experiment.’ Established by local artist and academic Richard Streitmatter-Tran in 2010, Dia/Projects eschews official programming and therefore funding. Instead, Dia functions flexibly, providing space for artists to research, plan, and play with their practice. Packed with almost 3,000 books on everything from art theory to Asian history, Dia/Projects is an oasis away from the city’s busy streets.
Address: 74 Đường số 1, Khu dân cư Trung Sơn, Ho Chi Minh City
10. Sao Lao
Sao Lao is backed by both the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Art Museum and Galerie Quynh. The project is a non-profit operating from the ground floor of the museum, with the bi-fold mission of making contemporary art accessible to the public and supporting the country’s nascent arts community. By organizing everything from exhibitions to film screenings and workshops, Sao Lao is about contemporary art and the Vietnamese authorities are perhaps finding genuine places of connection – a change from which artists and the public can only benefit.
Address: 97A Phó Đức Chính, Ho Chi Minh City