Vietnamese icon’s never before seen artwork

By Jade Bilowol   March 22, 2016 | 11:34 pm PT
A collection of works by the late Bui Xuan Phai, deemed one of Vietnam’s most “remarkable and charismatic” artists, will be showcased publicly for the first time in Hanoi next month.

The art will hang in the neo-classical lobby of the five-star Apricot Hotel, complementing the hotel’s permanent collection of original Vietnamese artwork.

With his actual signature at the heart of each work, Phai’s paintings mark a radical departure from his well-known portrayals of Hanoi’s streets and are credited with fuelling an artistic signature painting movement. 

Apricot Hotel will display seven of Phai’s paintings, alongside an array of works illustrating Hanoi’s streets by renowned Vietnamese artists who followed in Phai’s footsteps, in its exhibition The Streets Without Phai, Phai Without the Streets to be launched on April 14.

“Phai’s signature paintings have never been on display in public before, and reveal a different, lesser known yet substantially more complex side to the most illustrious of all Vietnamese modern painters,” said Apricot Hotel’s manager Phuong Nam Nguyen.

As a supporter of the Nhan Van movement advocating political and cultural freedom, Phai’s work was banned from public display for decades before a solo exhibition in 1984 changed all that. Phai died in 1988 and was posthumously awarded the Ho Chi Minh prize, Vietnam’s highest accolade for artists, in 1996. 

Nguyen said Phai’s signature paintings ooze with personality.  They were created in the last few years of his life between 1984 and 1987 as Vietnam introduced major economic reforms that flung open its doors to the world.

“He did not follow trends, he created them,” said Nguyen. “The evolution of his signature is artistry in itself and a most revealing characteristic when it comes to his aesthetics and ideologies.”

Nguyen said plans were afoot to permanently display Phai’s work at the hotel or the nearby Apricot Gallery.


Bui Xuan Phai


Bui Xuan Phai

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