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Posts Tagged ‘ancient vietnam’


Arts of Ancient Viet Nam: From River Plain to Open Sea” opens today at the Asia Society in NY. It seems to me relatively rare that any large exhibits are ever devoted to Viet Nam, with most museums devoting most of their Asian art attention to Chinese and Japanese art. (And there are plenty of good reasons for that, starting with the nature & composition of their collections, the history of collecting which led to the collections being this way, etc.) This seems a nice and special opportunity, therefore. It’s made all the more exciting by the fact that the exhibit does not restrict itself purely to ancient Viet Nam, but covers Hoi An as well, a major early modern trading port of the 16th-18th centuries. Hoi An was one of the chief SE Asian ports for Japanese trade, and the site of one of the largest Japanese communities, in the late 16th to early 17th centuries, which is how it attracted my attention, and came to form a major section in my (first) MA thesis.

I really wish I could be in NY to see this exhibit. If you are, go check it out.


(I must say, however, that I remain perplexed by the overwhelming dominance of ceramics and other “decorative arts” or “craft goods” in exhibits of Southeast Asian art. Yes, I know it’s not really PC to make a distinction any longer, to imply that decorative arts, crafts, ceramics are any lesser than so-called “fine arts” such as painting. But, those politics aside, where are the paintings? Surely, Viet Nam produced paintings just as every other country in the world has, heavily influenced by Chinese traditions just as much as Okinawa, Japan, and Korea were, the art of painting raised up above ceramics and other arts and treasured and celebrated just as much as in any other Sinosphere culture. So, where are the paintings? Okinawa was ravaged by war, and a great deal was lost; but even so, there are still paintings surviving and exhibited in Okinawa and Japan, if not in the US. … Well, at least the exhibit doesn’t focus exclusively on religious sculpture, like so many SE Asian galleries in major museums do.)

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