'Hoi Dinh Chem,' a lacquer painting by Vietnamese painter Nguyen Van Ty, has been sold for nearly US$1 million at an auction in France, marking a record price for a Vietnamese artwork in Europe.
The painting was the star of the auction titled Indochine, mythes et réalités (Indochina, Myths, and Realities) held by French auction house Drouot in Paris on Tuesday.
The winning price of the lacquer painting was 832,000 euros ($974,000).
This is the record price for artworks of Ty and also the record for a Vietnamese painting at a public auction house in Europe.
Notably, there is another version of 'Hoi Dinh Chem,' whose name is translated as 'Chem Temple Festival,' being displayed at the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum, with three panels compared to the full original set of five. The two remaining pieces have been missing for decades.
According to a statement of Drouot, known as the most prestigious auction house in France, the lacquer painting put up for bidding was the third version of the painting, the only with full five pieces created in 1942.
The painting was bought at an annual exhibition of the Indochina Fine Arts College by a French surgeon who worked for a hospital in Hai Phong City, located in northern Vietnam, during the colonial era.
The work had been kept in the surgeon's house in Paris until it was put up for the public auction.
According to Drouot, the painting being exhibited at the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum is the second version, which was painted in 1940. The first version has only one panel left.
Indochina fine arts researcher Ngo Kim Khoi found it difficult to verify its authenticity as he has yet to see it in person.
However, he cast doubt on the work as it seems to be new, especially when it comes to the details of faces, leaves, and 'ao dai' (Vietnamese long dress), compared to its birth year of 1942.
However, as the price is too high, the bidder must have been well advised before making a decision, Khoi said.
Researcher Nguyen Hai Yen, who has worked for many years at the Vietnamese Institute of Fine Arts and then Vietnamese National Fine Arts Museum, told the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that she was a member in a team that purchased the work from a family in Hanoi.
Yen met and discussed with Ty, who assured that the painting displayed at the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum was his original one. “He said that he painted only one painting,” said Yen.
However, it is possible that the artist made more versions during the creation process, she said.
However, Yen did not rule out the possibility the painting is a fake one with a bogus profile.
There are works by other Vietnamese artists put up at the auction, such as those of Le Thi Luu and Le Van Xuong, and some Vietnamese antiquities.
Nguyen Van Ty (1917-1992) was a famous Vietnamese painter who studied art at the École des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine (the Indochina College of Fine Arts) during the 1934-1941 period.
In 2001, he was awarded the Ho Chi Minh Prize for his contribution to the arts.
Many of Ty's artworks have been displayed at the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum.