Friday, 15 May 2015


Saigon Museum of Fine Arts

So ...... Ho Chi Minh City has been voted the 6th most dynamic city in the world according to one survey. 

The factors that are taken into account are such things as Inward Investment, how many international companies headquarters there are,  growth in the property market, connectivity, economic growth, new business start-ups and higher education. 

But, they don't measure how lively the arts are, how many galleries, theatres and orchestras the city has. In my view, I don't think any city can be considered dynamic without a well supported and vibrant arts scene.

Number one is London which has one of the most vibrant art scenes in the entire world. The art museums all rank highly in visitor ratings and are free to enter.

At number 2 is San Jose, USA. Their city art gallery costs $8 to enter but they offer lively program of exhibitions, events whereas Saigon museum is only 50 cents but many of the art exhibits have been languishing on the walls for a few years now.

Beijing ranks third and offers more than one public art museum. Entry to the National Art Museum is free and the collection is astoundingly varied and beautiful.

Shenzen, also in China is placed fourth. It does have one art museum but it is ranked in the bottom third of attractions in the city. I don't think I have ever heard of an art museum coming so low in the rankings. I wonder what they got wrong?

Shanghai, in China again, has three art museums and they rank highly as attractions on Trip Advisor. Well, Shanghai is currently the biggest city in the world so its galleries ought to be good!

At number six is Ho Chi Minh City. It is the 31st largest city in the world (by population). We have one Art Museum  and the  entry fee is very affordable at  10,000vnd. It is ranked  #15 out of nearly 100 attractions in the city which is quite something. The exhibits are from over three hundred years of fine and decorative arts and tell a story of life in southern Vietnam that is rich and varied. The whole is housed in a fabulous mansion which is an experience in itself.

In the past three years, I have seen the art scene in Saigon grow and become more lively. I know from personal experience that artists from Hanoi and Hue are moving south to be a part of an artist-led blossoming of the arts in our city. San Art brings a, much needed, dimension to critical thinking in contemporary practice in the city and provides a focal point for all artists. Commercial galleries provide support for more established artists through cultural programmes and by taking Vietnamese art overseas to international art markets. 3A Station is trying to create an 'arts quarter' where live performance and street art rub shoulders with independent designers which raises the profile of the arts amongst the young and there are pockets of vibrant arts lighting up the cultural landscape all over the city.

What would add some real dynamism to the arts is to use just a small amount of the revenue from all the new inward investment, and inject some cash into our beautiful museum and local arts to make them as dynamic as the economy.