Ho Chi Minh City’s flourishing contemporary art scene reflects its status as Vietnam’s most cosmopolitan and dynamic city. Over the past decade, Saigon has evolved from a commercial art hub to a more eclectic community of artists, curators, and educators creating platforms to promote Vietnamese contemporary art.
The relative newness of Saigon’s contemporary art scene is one of the exciting things about it. Following a lack of infrastructure in the recovery after the Vietnam War, artists are increasingly open to pushing boundaries. Travelers who are ready to look beyond the crafts and kitsch souvenirs will be rewarded with a vibrant range of artistic spaces.
Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum
Most visitors to Ho Chi Minh City will start at the Fine Arts Museum – a beautiful, and supposedly haunted, colonial-era building with an interesting mix of French and Chinese architectural details. The vast museum was originally built as a mansion for the Hui Bon Hoa family, one of the city’s wealthiest families during the 1920s to 1930s.
The museum’s collection spans three floors and showcases contemporary and historic painting, sculpture and textiles, with a focus on propaganda art and subsequent works inspired by the Vietnam War.
Sophie’s Art Tour
Devised by English expat, Sophie Hughes, Sophie’s Art Tour looks at Vietnam’s tumultuous history through the lives and works of its artists. The tour is a real highlight of Saigon’s art scene and is a great way to pack a lot in for visitors with limited time in the city.
The half-day tour offers insights into the development of the art scene and also an overview of Vietnam’s fascinating history, taking in private collections, museums and contemporary art spaces.
The tour is designed to highlight the personal experiences of artists who studied, fought, witnessed and documented major changes in 20th and 21st century Vietnam.
The Factory Contemporary Arts Center
Located just outside the city centre in District 2, The Factory is the first purpose-built space for contemporary art in Vietnam. The Centre is housed in a 500 square meter converted warehouse, marked by a shipping container at its entrance.
The large space hosts a range of curated exhibitions, workshops, live arts, talks and film screenings, aiming to showcase experimental art and emerging artists. The site also features a restaurant and bar serving cocktails and locally-sourced ingredients.
Craig Thomas Gallery
American lawyer-turned-gallerist, Craig Thomas, established his space in 2009, making it one of the city’s older commercial galleries. The focus is on supporting the development of young and mid-career Vietnamese artists, providing them with a platform to present their work to a wider audience.
Located in District 1, the gallery hosts regular exhibitions throughout the year, promoting contemporary Vietnamese artists working in painting, sculpture and mixed media.
Housed in a former factory, Galerie Quynh is an internationally renowned contemporary art gallery, showcasing both Vietnamese and foreign artists. The intimate space puts on several shows a year, as well as artist talks and lectures.
The gallery has built a strong reputation outside of Vietnam, participating in international art fairs, projects and exhibitions. Galerie Quynh represents artists including Tiffany Chung, Ha Manh Thang, Hoang Duong Cam, Nguyen Huy An, and The Propeller Group.