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In Vietnam, murals feature copied paintings without artists’ consent

Saturday, May 25, 2019, 14:16 GMT+7
In Vietnam, murals feature copied paintings without artists’ consent
Bui Thanh Tam’s original work (left) and the counterfeit copy (right)

Local hotels seem to have developed the habit of selecting artwork designed by local artists and commissioning massive recreations for their own walls, a trend that has both shocked and angered many in Vietnam’s homegrown art community.

Ha Hung Dung, a Ho Chi Minh-based artist with a soft spot for northwestern Vietnam, is known for his paintings depicting life in the rural areas of the region he loves so much.

But when Dung took a recent trip to the northern province of Lao Cai to showcase some of his favorite works he realized the bitter truth: it wasn’t only he who was profiting off the love he had poured into his paintings.

Upon checking in at Pao’s Sapa Leisure Hotel, Dung was shocked to see his works blown up and recreated on a wall in the lobby.

After speaking to the hotel’s management, Dung learned that Tran Tuan, a Hanoi-based wall painting service provider, has been recreating, and profiting, off his work without his permission. 

Through its Facebook page, Tran Tuan also openly advertises several of Dung’s other paintings as if they are the business’ own intellectual property.

Ha Hung Dung’s original painting (left) and Tran Tuan’s counterfeit (right)
Ha Hung Dung’s original painting (left) and Tran Tuan’s counterfeit (right)

Similarly, Phan Linh Bao Hanh, an artist living in the southern province of Binh Duong, was also frustrated to discover that a coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh City was decorated with unauthorized recreations of one of her most well-known art collections, Thieu nu va hoa sen (Young lady and the lotus).

Artists Bui Tien Tuan and Bui Thanh Tam, have also found themselves in the same situation.

 “I think people who copy our works because they lack understanding of copyright law,” Tam said.

Tam admitted that not all artists apply for intellectual property protection and even so, those who profit off copyrighted work are usually never punished.

“Because our work isn’t copyright protected, we are unable to file a lawsuit in case of infringement,” Tam said.

Phan Linh Bao Hanh’s original work (left) and the coffee shop recreation (right)
Phan Linh Bao Hanh’s original work (left) and the coffee shop recreation (right)

A Facebook apology

Pao’s Sapa Leisure, the hotel that had Dung’s work recreated on its wall, issued an apology to the artist on its Facebook page on Sunday, accepting responsibility for not checking the origins of the artwork but claiming the true blame falls on Tran Tuan, the wall painting maker.

The hotel also stated that the wall paintings were removed on Saturday last week.

Dung, however, didn’t seem too vindicated by the statement, declaring that an apology made on Facebook in lieu of direct contact is not really an apology at all, adding that he is not pleased with the way the incident was handled.

“They copied not just one, but many of my paintings,” he said in frustration.  “It is such a horrible feeling that I don’t even want to paint anymore!”

The artist also said he did not ask for any monetary compensation.

“I don’t need money.  I just want a formal meeting so that those involved can at least apologize to me in person,” he said. 

“All they did was issue an apology letter that wasn’t even sent to me directly.”

Ha Hung Dung’s original piece
Ha Hung Dung’s original piece

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