Tran Thi Thu Ha is one of HCM City's very few female gallery owners. She has devoted her professional life to promoting Viet Nam's contemporary art scene. A skilled painter and collector, Ha works at her family's Tu Do Gallery on Ho Tung Mau Street in District 1. She has collaborated with many State-owned and private museums at home and abroad. Duc Ngoc
spoke to Ha about her love of painting and future projects she has planned.
Inner Sanctum: Many Vietnamese are indifferent to the gallery business because they find it hard to balance art and profit-making. Your work at Tu Do Gallery is an exception. What is the key to your success?
My family and I opened Tu Do Gallery in Dong Khoi Street in 1989. We decided to own a gallery because we wanted to build and develop a quality place for Vietnamese artists and art lovers. We also wanted to impart our love for painting to local people, particularly young people.
In 2000, Tu Do Gallery moved to 53 Ho Tung Mau Street, and has become more and more professional. Viet Nam needs more professional private galleries that can play an important role in developing and introducing our art to the world.
In 2003, we decided to open Tudo Art Inc within a gallery in Houston, Texas. Since 2007, our Tudo Art Inc has been located in San Francisco and we work mostly online, which his taken care of by our children.
I think my job is about art and culture, not just business. Life and people would be nothing without art. A beautiful painting can improve the viewers' minds and knowledge.
We have organised 179 exhibitions, including 17 showcases in Australia, Hongkong, Singapore, Sweden, Belgium and the US. Our events introduced different styles of Viet Nam's contemporary fine arts and artists, and left a strong impression on both Vietnamese and foreign critics and viewers.
Through Tu Do Gallery, more than 3,600 art works have been introduced to the public.
I'm lucky because my husband and children, and my colleagues, including veteran and young artists, collectors and gallery owners with whom I have worked, are skilled and passionate. All of us share a love for painting.
Inner Sanctum: Your latest exhibition, called Twenty Years in Art at Tu Do Gallery featuring your 60 oil and lacquer works this week, was also very successful in attracting art critics and viewers. What are the key factors that help you in painting?
Just my love and passion. I have spent more than 20 years in the gallery business, so the work has deeply affected me. One day, I wanted to take up a brush to create my own works.
All my works are based on facts that I discover and feel about life, love and people. I think painters should create their work in the simplest way.
While painting, I forget bad things and just feel happiness. I unearth the beauty of life that sheds light on everyone and everything around me.
Honestly, I began painting by myself. My first work in oil painting called Hoa (Flowers) was created in 1990 after opening Tu Do Gallery. Seven years later my first solo exhibition was opened at the H&S Gallery in Brussels, Belgium, receiving support from viewers.
I have organised 11 solo and group exhibitions in HCM City, Hong Kong, Sweden, Belgium and the US, and all of my shows bring messages about Viet Nam and its people. I have painted more than 400 works in different materials, and have sold 300.
Inner Sanctum: Do you have any advice for people who are involved in the gallery business?
I face many challenges but I haven't given up my dream. I think only your love for painting and the fine arts in general can help you develop your work. Many art lovers enjoy my work and share my success. That's quite enough for me.
Inner Sanctum: What are the most valuable paintings by Vietnamese artists stored at your gallery?
One of our highest quality works that we have kept for years is Tran Bach Dang (Battle at Bach Dang River) by Nguyen Gia Tri, a 220cmx210cm lacquer on wood.
The work captures the battle on Bach Dang River (near Ha Long Bay in northern Viet Nam) in AD 938 between the Vietnamese forces, led by Ngo Quyen, and the Chinese forces under the Southern Han State. This battle put an end to centuries of Chinese domination in Viet Nam.
We're working with Vietnamese collectors and museums to sell the work.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell me about your upcoming projects?
Yes. I'm working on closing Tu Do Gallery in the near future and moving it to the US, where my children live and work. The reason is I just want to live with my children.
I'll travel to the US and meet with some art researchers involved in the gallery business.
Though Tu Do Gallery will open in the US, it still will be a place to introduce Viet Nam's fine arts and artists to the world. — VNS