“ Address: 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc Str. / Ba Dinh Dist. / Ha Noi / Vietnam / Tel: (84.4) 7332131 „
The Vietnam Fine Arts museum is just a few minutes walk from the Temple of Literature on Nguyen Thai Hoc and is a large, well-laid out gallery in the heart of Hanoi. It is housed in an attractive colonial style building. Bags and cameras will have to be checked in before admission, it costs VND20,000 (£0.66 or US$1).
In the basement was an exhibition of ceramics. I was quite keen to see this, as I am a fan of Asian ceramics so expected to see something similar. The building is air-conditioned to varying temperatures - cooler at the bottom, but not as effective on the upper floors. Thus the basement air-con was set at 'cryogenic', but it was pretty stuffy on the upper levels. I was disappointed with the selection - the ceramics were quite old but not as colourful as I expected, not typical of other Chinese or Asian ceramics you usually see. There was signage in English which helped. The signage wasn't as complete on other floors but you always understood the artist and dates etc.
Other floors displayed lacquer wood furniture, carvings, traditional costumes and fabrics as well as silk screens and paintings. I think the lacquer work was very interesting and quite varied, you could see how it evolved over time also. A lot of the paintings in this wing were fairly traditional, rural images similar to the style of paintings and prints that we had seen for sale in Hoi An and other places where they sell to the tourist market. As lovely as they are they represented nothing new to anyone who had been in Vietnam for a week or so.
There is a second building and we almost missed it - we accessed it through an outside staircase that took us from one building to another, passing the gift shop. It is not well signposted so look out for it on the second floor on the right hand side of the building. Here it seems is a more contemporary wing. There are impressionist style painting for example, but using Asian images. They were painted quite a bit after the European impressionist movement was popular, so I guess the trend took time to catch on in Vietnam. In this building we also saw painting depicting the American-Vietnamese war which is not something we had seen elsewhere. There wasn't a huge selection but I liked that the museum tried to include so many different aspects of Vietnam's history through art, not just in the painted form but through sculpture also. There are lots of side rooms too, so be careful not to miss anything, though, as with any gallery, not every room or theme is going to appeal to each individual. I am very glad we found the second wing, I thought the contemporary section added something different and was unlike the usual traditional art you see for sale, or in hotels and restaurants and is well worth checking out.
Overall I think we spent an hour or so here, we could have spent longer had we have come here earlier, but this was our last stop on a long, full-on day of sightseeing so we were flagging a bit. After collecting our bags we had no problem flagging down a metered taxi to take us back to our hotel.
Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00 to noon and 13:30 to 16:30.