Potential for official art market in Vietnam

Mr. Olivier Do Ngoc, art collector and judge of VietArt Today 2016, a professional young artist contest, shares his opinion on the potential of an official art market in Vietnam.

by Nhi Linh

■ Are you afraid of being one-sided and subjective when becoming a judge because you are already a collector with your own sense of style and interests?

No, as a collector I am very open to new styles and artists and I am approaching this task with my own tastes and background, which are not from a technical perspective.

I believe the panel of judges was composed with this in mind to ensure a good representation of judges form diverse backgrounds. Therefore, they will bring their own experiences and ideas to the competition to give better representative opinions of the market in general that the artists would be confronted with.

■ What is your assessment of Vietnamese arts and the potential for an official market for arts in Vietnam?

Vietnam has historically had a very buoyant and rich artistic culture and has produced a lot of world class artists to look up to. Additionally, there is huge potential for talented and passionate young artists to emerge with their own style and ideas. So I am, of course, interested in discovering those artists early and finding ways to support them and accompany them through their development.

I have actually had several meetings with some people interested in launching a Vietnamese art fund who wanted my perspective as a private investor on the potential for this in Vietnam.

I see the idea in itself as very interesting but there are today a lot of hurdles that have first to be overcome before this could become reality. I trust also that if someone eventually manages to do this, there will also be an opportunity to share those art pieces with the greater public so that everyone can appreciate and enjoy part of our history.

Vietnam has all of the ingredients to have a successful art market but there are still things to put in place to achieve this and a need for the many actors in the market to coordinate their efforts. Vietnamese art has historically been very much appreciated by international collectors, and the country benefits from a large number of tourists discovering the country and being eager to take something back home. There is also an important potential market in local Vietnamese who appreciate art and have started to collect artists, including young and upcoming ones.

■ From your point of view, what is the difference between buying paintings from auction houses and other galleries and buying them directly from artists? Why do you rarely buy paintings directly from the artists in Vietnam?

I have had experience with both and while there is a more personal side to buying directly from the artist, the auction houses and galleries generally ensure that there is a longer term focus on developing the artist’s work and his or her fame, which comes at a premium. When reselling works, the origin and provenance is nowadays very important.

I do actually buy quite a few paintings in Vietnam but origin and authenticity is sometimes a concern. Additionally, some promising artists when they start to be successful sometimes get too focused on their commercial success and less so on evolving their art or producing high quality creative work. Artists who make it to overseas galleries or auctions typically have already a more established track record and consistency in the way they approach their work and so international auction houses will guarantee the origin of the works.

■ How are insurance funds, banks, and law firms involved in supporting artists and ensuring a high quality for collectors and buyers?

In the West, those companies typically are large art collectors or sponsors and they use art both as a client PR and marketing tool and as an investment, or sometimes just for philanthropy. I believe that in Vietnam some funds, banks and law firms are already putting together important collections and would expect this trend to develop further in the coming years.

■ What is the level and standard that you target for your collection?

At the beginning I started collecting things I enjoyed visually but over the years, as my taste evolved and broadened, I considered other factors such as the long-term value of the works, the artist’s potential and technical skill, and the originality of the creative work. Hence, you could say that over the years I have become much more demanding of the works I collect and also ended up selling some of the earlier works I had purchased.

VietArt Today 2016 calls for the participation of all young Vietnamese artists and is organized by The V art and the Club of Young Artists under the Vietnamese Fine Arts Association of Ho Chi Minh City, sponsored by Galerie Nguyen. On December 10, the 20 most beautiful paintings will be announced. In late February 2017, an awards night will take place.

  The first prize includes VND100 million ($4,400) in cash, a free trip to visit an art fair in Singapore, and the signing of an exclusive contract for five years with Galerie Nguyen,  worth VND2.5 billion ($109,925). The prize structure for the second and third prizes is the same, with the contracts being VND1.5 billion ($65,955) and VND1 billion ($43,970), respectively.