Thai collector Tira Vanichtheeranon will open a painting exhibition featuring one of the greatest names of Viet Nam's art history, To Ngoc Van, and Thai famed artist Fua Haripitak in Bangkok on Monday. Tira recently released a book introducing works of one of late Vietnamese artists, Nguyen Cao Thuong which follows a series about Vietnamese fine arts. Tira spoke to Culture Vulture.
What is the coming exhibition in Thailand about?
My 333 Gallery in Bangkok will celebrate its first year on April 27. I had other galleries for three years, but moved to a more spacious location in a shopping mall.
To mark the occasion, I will have an exhibition by Thai artist Fua Haripitak and Vietnamese painter To Ngoc Van, the best two from their respective countries. I also planned a workshop on Asian art, but because of the unstable political situation, I had to postpone it.
A worshop being held in conjunction will bring together artists from Viet Nam, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka.
Apart from collecting art, I understand you also promote the cultural relationship between Viet Nam and Thailand. Is this so?
This follows a range of art exchanges between Thai and Vietnamese artists. I have organised many exhibitions in HCM City, Ha Noi and Bangkok. They enable Thai and Vietnamese artists to share their experiences and take field trips in host countries.
Thai artists have been in Ha Long Bay and many places. Some of them have made a good impression here. Vietnamese onlookers often ask them to come back.
Regarding the latest book The Collection of Nguyen Cao Thuong, how did you gather such a large volume of works?
It's not difficult to find sketches and paintings. Maybe it's my luck. Previously, I had only six art works of Thuong. In 2012 I organised an exhibition showcasing these paintings together with others in my collection at Ha Noi and HCM City museums.
Many newspapers reported the event. One of the collectors of Nguyen Cao Thuong , Ralph Matthews, saw this news and the oil-on-canvas Tran Hung Dao Danh Tran Bach Dang (General Tran Hung Dao Conducts the Bach Dang Battle).
Matthews told me he had sketches and paintings featuring President Ho Chi Minh, the August Revolution, and many more. He had 260 pieces. At that time he was in California.
I told him that I'd like to see all the paintings. Months later he came back to HCM City and invited me to his house and showed me Thuong's collection. The sketches, paintings, portraits of famous people and landscapes were from Cuba, Laos, Moscow, Mongolia, and China.
When I looked at the paintings, I liked them immediately. I did not tell him because I thought they would cost a fortune. Then we became friends. Before he moved back to the US, I decided to ask him to buy the collection. Luckily he sold me the whole set at a very reasonable price.
So is that enough for the collection?
Altogether, I have 272 sketches and paintings by Thuong and still look for more. I know late Vietnamese collector Le Thai Son had three or four pieces which now belong to his wife.
Later on, I put many paintings on Facebook. This enabled me to "meet" many people with similar interests. They gave me a lot of new information about Thuong.
Also I came to know that his family did not have any paintings by Thuong, let alone photos of him. They even had to use his ID card photo to put on his altar. The Dong Nai Secondary School of Decorative Arts where he used to be headmaster does not keep any paintings by Thuong either. So I have presented both the family and the school with a large painting by Thuong.
What is your plan for the future?
I'm working with Vietnamese art critic Phan Cam Thuong to release a fifth book about late artist Nguyen Thu. Then I will do another featuring hundreds of art works by Vietnamese big names who studied at the Indochina College of Fine Arts, including Bui Xuan Phai and Nguyen Sang. — VNS