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Vietnamese artist’s painting sets self record of €440,000 at Paris auction

Wednesday, October 24, 2018, 09:22 GMT+7
Vietnamese artist’s painting sets self record of €440,000 at Paris auction
The “Tonkin girl with a fan” painting is displayed alongside other artworks at Aguttes’ auction in Paris on Oct 22, 2018. Photo: Ngo Kim Khoi

A silk painting by a Vietnamese artist set a record high of nearly €440,000 for its first-time showcase at an art auction in Paris on Monday.

The painting named “Thieu nu cam quat,” or “Tonkin girl with a fan” in English and “Tonkinoise à l'éventail’ in French, by Vietnamese artist Nguyen Nam Son was put up for sale at the event organized by the auction house Aguttes.

The Monday auction was meant for Asian and contemporary Chinese painters, 19th century paintings, impressionists, and modern - contemporary art.

Nguyen Nam Son is the professional name of Nguyen Van Tho, a Vietnamese artist born in 1890, who together with his disciple and teacher founded the Hanoi School of Fine Arts in 1924.

Done on silk, one of Son’s favorite techniques, the 61.5cm x 43cm painting shows a young girl sitting on a divan with a delicate paper fan in her right hand, and an orchid stem emerging above. 

The girl is crouching, with her left foot flat on the ground and her right foot bent under. 

She is wearing a green traditional Vietnamese ao dai tunic and white trousers, and has the distinct look of a northern Vietnamese city-dweller, contrasting with the more simply-clad countrywomen.

The “Tonkin girl with a fan” painting by the 19th-20th century Vietnamese artist Nguyen Nam Son is seen in this photo.
The “Tonkin girl with a fan” painting by the 19th-20th century Vietnamese artist Nguyen Nam Son is seen in this photo.

The water color artwork, which is predicted to be made between 1935 and 1936, depicts a peaceful atmosphere that highlights the model’s tender beauty, Aguttes assessed.

“Tonkin girl with a fan” was estimated at a starting price of €50,000-80,000 before the auction. But to everyone’s surprise, it was sold for €440,000, 5.5 times higher and also a record high that any artwork by Son has ever been paid.

Researcher Ngo Kim Khoi, who is Son’s grandchild living in France, said that he was very happy with the results of the auction, which is a positive sign that Vietnamese art is becoming more and more popular in international markets.

“This is a pride for the artist and his family in particular, and for Vietnamese art in general,” Khoi told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

As the identity of the painting buyer is undisclosed, Khoi still holds his hope that the Vietnamese painting can be brought back to its homeland.

“Tonkin girl with a fan” used to belong to Fernand Maller, a French military official, who was stationed in Hanoi between January 1936 and April 1938.

It was then brought to France and has since been preserved by the official’s family until the Monday auction.

At the same auction, as many as 141 items were sold, 28 of which were works by Vietnamese painters or foreign painters on Vietnam.

The painting “Le retour du marché” by another Vietnamese artist, Tran Van Can, was sold for €230,000, the highest price paid for a piece by the painter so far, while it was estimated to be worth only €40,000-60,000 in the first place. 

On March 26, another silk painting featuring a northern woman by Son was also sold at another auction by Aguttes for €205,000.

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Bao Anh / Tuoi Tre News

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