Sales of Asian art have been strong over the last few years, as the contemporary art market awakens, not only to Chinese and Islamic art, but some new cultural kids on the block: Vietnamese artists. Last year, a late 1930s painting by one artist, Le Pho, sold for nearly $1.2 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong.
So, I decided to catch up with Thuy Tran, the Vietnamese-born curator and fine art agent who has landed in London. Her sole mission, and passion, is to help established and renowned artists’ in Vietnam breakthrough the market and gain recognition abroad. And she’s off to a good start.
To start off, talk to us about your background. Where do you come from and where does your interest in art stem from?
I come from a loving family, my parents are happily married which in this day and age I am so grateful for. Most of my childhood was spent in the countryside with my grandparents. I guess that’s the reason why I am very attached to family, and being very close to nature at such a young age has become a big part of who I am and has built the foundation for the way I see the world.
During my time at college, I dated an artist for over 3 years where I gained insight into the art world through his perspective. I also got to know a variety of great artists in person during my time at college, from well established to emerging and freshly graduated artists. I witnessed so many awesome artwork demonstrations, fine art exhibitions, and got to view artists’ studios where the creativity and uniqueness was born.
I came to London for the first time 6 years ago to pursue my further education. I was amazed by the abundless amount of opportunities that there were available and by the mass size of the city. At the time, I had no connections or friends to help guide me and take me round this city. I started going to galleries, exhibitions, and asking around but of course nobody took me seriously. That was what made me want to do something even more, because of the rejection. To be honest, I didn’t really know what “something” would be but my gut told me to not give up.
How did you get interested in representing artists?
In Vietnam, I knew so many artists and my boyfriend at the time was one of them, so I sort of lived in that world and bubble with them. I got to know who was good, who was doing great with selling, who was great as an artist but struggled with selling the works and more.
That is the reason why I decided to start my own business, to represent Vietnamese artist’s works and essentially clear up the struggle that they are facing. I also believe that Vietnamese artists deserve a better chance to go and exceed within the International market.
What is unique about Vietnamese Art and your mission?
Vietnamese Art has a long and rich history..during the Stone Age (approximately 8,000 B.C.E, when pottery was made from clay and found in Vietnam with some early signs of artistic flare) Vietnam has gone through years of war with the Chinese, French and American. The Vietnamese art scene was influenced by ancient Chinese and modern French styles from the 1990s but still keep its most original with the proud of Buddhism, the strong and beautiful inner of the people and nature..
My mission is to bring Vietnamese art to a whole new level on the art world’s map and to create a more fair platform for the Vietnamese artists to have chance to shine with other international artists.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
People are not fully educated or acknowledging about Vietnamese art.
How many Vietnamese artists do you currently represent overall? and Are you relationships exclusive?
I currently represent over 10 Vietnamese artists who I have established personal connections with, including artists that were highly recommended to me.
How did you choose these artists to represent? Essentially, what do you look for in an artist?
I started working with the ones that I knew closely in person, essentially the artists where I had prior knowledge of how great their works were and where I know their stories. As the business grew, I started working with other recommended artists and I have not been turned down by that choice once.
What do you think are the greatest benefits that agents can offer to artists?
Being able to find certain niches for an artist’s work that the artist themself may not have the time to explore or be privy to. Most of the time the agents have an established collector network that they can introduce the artist’ work to. At the end of the day it’s about the individual strength and network of that agent and the needs of the artist. My team and I have been working extensively to offer my artists much better internal and international opportunities.
And where can people see the work of Vietnamese artists?
I will be hosting my very first Vietnamese Fine Art Exhibition on the 15th of June with the support of the Vietnamese Embassy in London, University for Creative Arts and Syria Relief Charity Organization.
Lastly, what are your future goals?
The bigger my business can positively grow, the more opportunities. As an Asian in a Western country, my goal is to draw a standout line of Vietnamese as well as Asian art onto the world art map.
To view the profile of the Vietnamese artists who Thuy Tran represents, you can visit her website here.