In 2010, AAA collaborated with Saigon-based independent art space, sàn art, to digitise the organisational files of Blue Space Contemporary Arts Center which document the exhibitions and art projects organised and curated at the Center from the early 1990s until the present. This project is one of two digitisation projects that AAA devoted to alternative art spaces in Vietnam, bringing to light highly important resources on contemporary Vietnamese art in the 1990s, a critical era in the contemporary history of Vietnam after the implementation of Doi Moi (Renovation) policies in 1986, and reflect how artists responded to and reformed the State monopoly on the arts.
Blue Space, or Khong Gian Xanh in Vietnamese, was an independent art space housed in the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts but whose operations are completely independent of that institution. It was founded in 1996 by Mrs. Tran Thi Huynh Nga, widow of the self-taught artist Tran Trung Tin (1933-2008) as a place of hope and freedom of expression for artists. With a start-up grant of $60,000 from the Ford Foundation, it became an alternative exhibition space for both domestic and international artists to show their work outside of the government sponsored organisations. Blue Space was the first independent art space in Ho Chi Minh City to be established since the end of the war of reunification in 1975. It ceased its activities in 2010.
The archive contains over 400 documents, mostly photographs, pertaining to the artists and exhibitions that took place in Blue Space. These documents were scanned from Mrs. Nga’s album of photographs. They record the people who attended the events as well as images of the artists’ works as they were exhibited in the space. For many younger generation Vietnamese artists whose work did not fit the official nationalist criteria in terms of technique and subject matter, or who wanted to break free from those ideals, Blue Space offered them the opportunity to hold their first solo or group exhibition. For international artists, Blue Space was a place to show in Vietnam and meet local artists. As a result some of the earliest examples of contemporary experimental art took place at Blue Space. This includes a work shop organised by NIPAF founder Seiji Shimoda and an installation by Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba.
Chronology of Key Events
Blue Space Contemporary Arts Center was officially founded by Mrs Tran Thi Huynh Nga
American artist Bradford Edwards (b. 1955); Recent graduates from the Hanoi University of Fine Arts: Nguyen Van Cuong (b. 1976), Nguyen Minh Thanh (b. 1971) and Nguyen Quang Huy (b. 1971)
Japanese-Vietnamese-American artist Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba (b.1968) second of two exhibitions held in Vietnam, ‘Water on Air,’ an installation made of fabric held in the courtyard of the HCMC museum; ‘Meeting Point’ workshop between Thai and Vietnamese artists including performances, discussion and art making. Participating artists: Chumpon Apisuk (b. 1958), Montien Boonma (1953-2000), Kamol Phao Savasdi (b. 1958) Vasan Sitthiket (b. 1957), and Natee Utarit (b. 1970); Svay Ken (1933-2008) and Bradford Edwards (b. 1955) Svay Ken was a Cambodian self-taught artist who had his first solo exhibition at Reyum at the same time as his exhibition at Blue Space. He was the first Cambodian artist to participate in the Asian Art Triennial in Fukuoka in 1999.
First show by three recent graduates from the Ho Chi Minh University of Fine Arts. Bui Cong Khanh (b. 1972) Nguyen Thi Chau Giang (b. 1975) and Bui Tien Tuan (b. 1975) Bui Cong Khanh and Nguyen Thi Chau Giang have both exhibited internationally in galleries and on the international biennale and triennial circuits.
Seiji Shimoda (b. 1951) director of the Nippon International Performance Art Festival (NIPAF) made his first visit to Vietnam and initiated a performance art workshop at Blue Space. That same year, Chumpon Apisuk (b. 1948) invited three Vietnamese artists to participate in Asiatopia, the performance art festival that takes place in Bangkok. Ly Hoang Ly (b. 1975) and Truong Tan (b. 1963) added performance to their artistic practice and have since performed in numerous performance festivals including NIPAF and Asiatopia.
Pushing Through Borders: Large multi-media collaborative installation and performance by Cambodian-American artist Anida Yoeu Esguerra (b.1974) and Ly Hoang Ly.
Exhibition and workshop by artists from Singapore: Hazel Lim (b.1975), Lynn Loo (b. 1974) and Michael Tan (b. 1975).
Rendez-vous: Video Art and Electronic Music exhibition featuring Vietnamese-American, Vietnamese, Franco-Vietnamese and French artists, including Richard Streitmatter-Tran (b. 1972) Bui Cong Khanh (b. 1972) Sandrine Llouquet (b. 1975) Kim Ngoc (b.1973) and Benoit Maire (b. 1978) This exhibition was the first of its kind in combining music, video and performance. All of the artists have gained international reputations with extensive exhibition experience.
Exhibition of Burmese artists: Aung Myint (b. 1946) Aye Ko (b. 1963) Nan Nan (b. 1974)
Collaboration between Thai and Vietnamese artists in Binh Thuan province
- Collection Description and Chronology of Key Events by Nora Taylor
This project has been made possible with the support of Saigon-based independent art space, sàn art.
AAA would like to thank the following individuals for their invaluable contribution to this project: Mrs. Tran Thi Huynh Nga, Dinh Q. Lê, Zoe Butt, Nora Taylor and Pamela Corey.
Project Researcher: Arlette Quynh Anh Tran
Project Partner: sàn art
Project Advisor: Nora Taylor