The thriving art gallery scene in HCMC by Justin Mott
Spending time with Quynh Pham, founder and director of Galerie Quynh, is always a delightful experience, and highly recommended as a starting point for one’s expedition into Saigon’s dynamic art scene. Her eyes alight with passion during one-on-one tours. For more than a decade, Galerie Quynh has been Saigon’s leading art space, championing the country’s most established and emerging artists. With a well-curated body of exhibitions and professionalism that proves a worthy match to any international establishment, you’ll find an eclectic collection of paintings, sculptures, videos, and mixed media pieces that truly represent the crème de la crème of contemporary Vietnamese artists, with some international names sprinkled in the mix every now and then.
Address: 151/3 Đồng Khởi, Q.1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
A new breed of creatives are bringing in the fun and much needed breath of fresh air to Saigon’s artistic offerings. Cháosdowntown is a funky guesthouse slash exhibition space in District 1. Though it’s only a few months old, the hub has proven itself to be a hot spot among art and music zealots thanks to its urban vibe and tech inspired aesthetics. This art hostel is fueled by a twentysomething, former New Yorker’s affinity for everything cool in the underground scene. Why stay at a regular hotel when you can wake up in a house teeming with the creative expressions of gritty youth?
Address: 121/61 Lê Thị Riêng, Q.1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
If you’re looking for a vibe similar to that of Cháosdowntown, make a detour to 3A Station, yet another vibrant, lively destination to explore the city’s “new generation” mindset. A former abandoned warehouse, the 2000-square meter complex has been partitioned off into numerous galleries, boutiques and cafés. The renovation of the warehouse reflects a growing trend among popular cultural venues. The graffitied walls constantly attract youths in need of bombastic backdrops for chic selfies.
Address: 3A Tôn Đức Thắng, P. Bến Nghé, Q.1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Saigon’s art scene doesn’t solely revolve around District 1. Venture 20 minutes away from the city centre to the neighborhood of Thao Dien in District 2 and you will discover the Saigon’s largest contemporary art space. Established in March 2016 by fashion designer Thuy Nguyen, The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre is the latest addition to the town’s booming cultural scene. Since its inauguration, it has successfully executed two major shows that worked the space’s sizeable exhibition area to wondrous effects. The exhibitions ranged from a group show featuring artwork from a number talented local and international youth to a massive, large-scale sculptural installation by one of the most prominent artists in the country. On a side note, don’t forget to check out Vin Gallery (6 Le Van Mien) while you’re in the area, a charming spot supporting emerging artists from Southeast Asia by Malaysian curator Shyevin S’ng.
Address: 15 Nguyễn Ư Dĩ, Thảo Điền, Q.2, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
An in-depth investigation of Vietnam’s artistic state of mind requires a trip to San Art, also in Binh Thanh District. San Art is a non-profit platform founded by artists to facilitate the country’s contemporary cultural knowledge. It boasts an extensive, well-stocked reading room open to the public, with dozens of books and other reading materials on the subject of contemporary art. Chat with the team to discover more about the organization’s programs and exhibitions, part of their impassioned effort to foster interdisciplinary dialogues among Saigon’s in-crowd.
Address: 48/7 Me Linh, Binh Thanh District, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Another Binh Thanh haunt is Dia Projects. The gallery started off as an artistic initiative. Founded by Richard Streitmatter-Tran, he opened the exhibition space in 2015 hoping to house five years worth of research and experimentation. Dia Projects has been moved to a more spacious accommodation within the Saigon Domaine luxury residence. It’s hosted a myriad of exhibitions that showcase emerging talent in the realms of illustration, mixed media, sculpture, installation, performance art and has recently begun to cross over into the world of fashion and design. Ask to speak with founder Streitmatter-Tran. The curator/artist is well-versed in the subject and offers generous insight into the history and practice of the field. If you’re lucky, he might even invite you into his studio —a self-constructed atelier— for further discussion.
Address: 1057 Bình Quới Street, Ward 28, District Bình Thạnh Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam