Viet Nam's ever first antique appraisal company is up and running after a green light from culture and heritage authorities. To mark the occasion, Dao Phan Long, director of Dau Xua Ltd Co and chairman of the Ha Noi-Thang Long Antique Association, spoke to Culture Vulture.
It took nearly two years for the company to start up. Why?
It is the first company in Viet Nam to be fully-qualified for antique appraisals, featuring specialist personnel, experience and equipment. Dau Xua Ltd Co's core team are noted experts who have experience in antique appraisals and are recognised by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Ha Noi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Viet Nam hasn't held any formal training courses on the antique business. Traditionally, antique collectors often self-study, learn from experience or from others. Therefore, in establishing a company with such a specialised field of operation we had to take precautions.
We faced many difficulties in setting up the company. It is not hard to start a new company at this time, but you need to consider how it will perform. If the company is money-oriented rather than professionalism-focused, it will surely be boycotted. I'm lucky to have gathered a team of veteran experts who show their strong support for the newly-established company.
I hope the company will create a new, transparent playing field for those involved in the business. I also hope this will be the model for future antique auctions.
How will the company operate? What happens if, during the appraisal process, antiques are found to have been stolen?
The company runs on a small scale. Once every one or two weeks an appraisal council will be summoned to locations that where antiques need to be examined. Appraisal costs are flexible depending on the value of each antique as well as antique quantity.
Once appraised, the antique will be granted a certificate indicating its name, origin, date, material, status, ownership and appraisers. We also regulate that the antique collector needs to prove that he is the owner of the antique. In cases where antiques are from State-owned museums or scientific institutes, we will undertake this as part of our task and responsibility.
Recently, antique collectors have been encouraged to showcase their objects at State-owned museums. Is this a good idea?
I think it is but some things should be taken into consideration. To make it clear, the antique collectors should be respectable, while their objects have to be guaranteed by the museums.
The collectors should be paid a sum of money for the antique's annual maintenance, something I have learned from my experiences dealing with other countries. We follow these protocols and need to ensure they are suitable for conditions in Viet Nam.
You were one of founders of the Ha Noi-Thang Long Antique Association and later Viet Nam Antiques and Art magazine. Will you set up an antique auction house in the future?
I think antique auction houses should be set up by State bodies. It is an indispensable step to have a public antique market and the antiques will be protected by law. If we do it, we will ensure the antiques stay in Viet Nam as well as bringing back Vietnamese antiques from abroad.
I'm not ambitious about launching an antique auction house in Viet Nam because an antique is a very special commodity.
Antiques are always related to tourism. If tourists visiting Viet Nam want to buy an item of Vietnamese culture, will they be allowed and if so how? What types of antiques will be permitted? I just mention some stumbling blocks to emphasise that management is essential. — VNS