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Patronage of the arts in Vietnam

Thursday, May 12, 2016, 20:48 GMT+7

Vietnamese artistic talent needs to make itself better known locally. As local massive wealth presents itself in personal possessions - giant houses, giant cars, giant TVs - now is a prime opportunity for Vietnamese wealth to embed itself with the arts.

Patronage of the arts is a unique form of status in the Western world and can prove a solid return on investment if you know what’s hot and what’s not in the creative world.

Instead of investing in rhino horn, ivory tusks, and weird tree stumps carved into something even weirder, why not sponsor the latest talent? Becoming a household name for backing a gifted artist, photographer, writer or videographer is much more worthwhile than contributing to the extinction of endangered plants and animals.

Copying the works of the West is slowly morphing into a home-grown innovative movement of young talent busy exploring their personal expressive outlets and manifesting their points-of-view on life through art; both from the perspective of a Vietnamese living in a Vietnamese world and from a universal perspective all people can relate to. The local Internet content is full of those who reached the top – not necessarily those still on the road up the mountain.

Vietnamese graphic artists are producing world quality comic books and artworks winning prizes overseas yet receive little or no real publicity back home.

Long Than Tuong, a book by a group including young Thanh Phong, is a fine example, winning awards in Japan, the home of Manga.

Meanwhile, Phung Nguyen Quang and Huynh Kim Lien produced a book, The First Journey, that won the Scholastic Asian Book Award for publishers. Imagine impressing your friends with a monogrammed or autographed first edition? There’s something your neighbors can’t easily ‘go one up’ on you!

Consider the magnificent filmography of Bui Minh Tuan; producing a number of fabulous aerial video portraits of Vietnam’s stunning scenery or the recent semi-sci-fi movie of a flooded Vietnam, Nuoc 2030, directed by promising young director, Nguyen Vo Nghiem Minh. Now, these are people worthy of corporate financial support. Imagine bragging to your friends that you backed those projects! That would outshine even the latest Harley-Davidson or Maybach!

Don’t forget vibrant, fresh thoughts from local writers. Thao Duong, a local fantasy writer, has run a literature review and promotion website for quite a while to encourage young readers. That’s an example of a push the arts need in the right direction.

Last year, a competition with prize money, Tiki Young Author 2015, proved to be a great initiative aimed to raise awareness of young authors with the bonus of promoting greater reader participation in locally produced cultural works. Why not open or sponsor the latest collaborative art space or video project? Or commission a work of art for your home? A painting or a statue, perhaps? Gucci handbags are nothing in comparison! And picture the amazing selfies you can take at home with your artistic choices and your new found artist!

Think more broadly too, talent is not always found in an office. How about hiring a graffiti artist to repaint your interior walls? You can shock your visitors with a contemporary vision of a post-apocalyptic Hoi An or Da Nang...or your favorite pets!

One important feature should be to include foreign talent to train locals – such as photographers or graphic artists. The flow of information on the latest techniques and artistic inspiration will make your patronage more modern and sophisticated. Yet you should resist the temptation to tell the artist what to create! We love telling people our ideas but that interferes with the possibility of producing something fantastic and original, which is why you have the artist in the first place, right?

I’ve noticed that wealthy locals try to impress their clients and friends with expensive exotic fish or the rare and illegal ivory products, but there’s a much safer and totally unique way! Hire the right talent and it will be impossible for others to copy the work you have commissioned – and it’s a great investment over time. Paintings, for example, discovered when the artist is not yet famous can sometimes increase in value by thousands of dollars.

In the end, any patronage you offer also expands and celebrates Vietnamese cultural and artistic diversity, promoting not only the artist (and you) but the nation as a whole. So if you have the money to spend, use it wisely and spread opportunity around. The seed you plant is creativity but the gift you give touches hearts.

You don’t have to impress with ‘things’ when you invest in talent – it’s impressive enough already. So where’s your wallet? ... And your heart?

Stivi Cooke


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