Christie’s: Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses – A Curated Collection of Vietnamese Art

Zineng Wang, Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of Sale, Southeast Asian Art, Christie’s and Jean-François Hubert, Senior Consultant, Vietnamese Art, Christie’s

Dear Bem,
We would like to personally thank you for your valuable contribution to the exhibition and sale at Christie’s Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses: A Curated Collection of Vietnamese Art. Your translation work, your suggestions, and your constant enthusiasm have made the catalogue, the exhibition and the sale a total success which you share with all the Christie’s teams and us.

Excerpted from Mr Wang and Mr Hubert’s email to Thuc Doan / Bem, 30 June 2016

To celebrate the 250th anniversary of Christie’s has been a historic year, commemorated with a series of special sales, exhibitions and events at the salesrooms across the globe. Celebrations of this landmark anniversary have included Defining British Art — An Evening Sale (30 June) and Loan Exhibition (17 June to 15 July) that both explored the legacy of four centuries of British art, and special curated sales to mark 30 Years in Asia and 10 Years in Dubai. A new book on 250 of the most remarkable works of art to have been offered in our auctions — Going Once: 250 years of Culture, Taste and Collecting at Christie’s (Phaidon) — is out now. The 30th anniversary of Christie’s in Asia, Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art unveils an exciting range of masterpieces by leading Asian artists at Christie’s Hong Kong Spring Auctions. Collectors are offered a glimpse into contemporary artistic movements, uncovering the artists’ unique and historic ideas and styles. Carefully curated works by modern and contemporary masters from China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia reveal distinctive differences between art in the East and the West, also offering for the first time in the Asian 20th Century Art day sale, chart the course of Vietnamese art from the classical period to modern times.

Christie’s The First Sale, James Christie holds his first sale in his permanent saleroom in Pall Mall, London in 1766

On this special occasion, Christie’s, for the very first time, published a separate Vietnamese Art Vanity – Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses: A Curated Collection of Vietnamese Art. 

Christie’s Vietnamese Art Vanity: Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses: A Curated Collection of Vietnamese Art Front Page
Christie’s Vietnamese Art Vanity: Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses: A Curated Collection of Vietnamese Art

How can art tell the story of a nation? This is a question that is particularly relevant in Asian art histories where the narratives of art’s development in the 20th century often crisscross episodes of a revolutionary and nationalistic nature in national histories. In the first seventy lots of this sale, our specialists have put together a curated collection of Vietnamese art that seeks to answer the question of art’s relationship to the story of a nation.

Zineng Wang and Mr Jean-François Hubert as speakers before the sale

The story to be told runs from the classic to the modern, bringing into view artistic and literary traditions, the people, their ideas and the landscapes that have informed the development of 20th-century Vietnamese art. As a concept, Vietnamese art is not defined narrowly as art produced in Vietnam, or even by Vietnamese people, but as a broader category that embraces colonial and ancient visual cultures.

France’s eight decades of rule of Vietnam from the late 19th century profoundly shaped the origin of modern Vietnamese art, particularly through the establishment of the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine (Indochina College of Arts) in Hanoi in 1924. Works of key figures from the college – including Victor Tardieu, the college’s founding principal, and Joseph Inguimberty, an influential teacher in the earliest days of the college – are represented in the sale, alongside works by successive generations of graduates from the college, including Nguyen Phan Chanh and To Ngoc Van. Some of the earliest graduates, particularly the quartet – Le Pho, Mai Trung Thu, Vu Cao Dam and Le Thi Luu – found positive reception to their works in 1930s and 40s Europe. The quarter stayed for life in Europe but retained lifelong interests in presenting particularly a Vietnamese worldview to foreign audiences.

Artworks displayed at Christie’s
Artworks of Artist Nguyen Trung and Boi Tran

Universally, 20th-century modern art bore the influence of traditional and primitive art, and Vietnam is no different. From the vantage point of the early 20th century, we turn to ancient Vietnam, examining the remarkable achievement of the Đông Sơn people (also known as Lạc Việt), who were arguably the most advanced bronze casters of the Bronze Age, as well as the artistic legacy of the ancient Champa civilisation that flourished along the coast of central and southern Vietnam today. The Indic influences of Cham art illustrate the ‘internationalism’ of millennia of people who have settled in today’s Vietnam.

To missionaries, invaders, or simply settlers, Vietnam has been and continues to be both a place and a culture of great wealth and diversity. This curated collection is the first of a two-part endeavour to recount the story of a nation through its art, from the ancient to the modern before reaching into the contemporary.

Nguyen Gia Tri (Vietnamese, 1908-1993), Beauté éternelle (Eternal Beauty), lacquer on board, 89 x 61 cm. (35 x 24 in.)
Estimate HK$500,000 – HK$700,000
Price Realised HK$2,440,000 ($315,694)
Mai Trung Thu (Vietnamese, 1906-1980), Hunters, ink and gouache on silk, 100 x 70 cm. (39 3/8 x 27 1/2 in.)
Estimate HK$400,000 – HK$500,000
Price Realised HK$2,320,000
Nguyen Phan Chanh (Vietnamese, 1892-1984), Sewing, ink and gouache on silk, 65 x 50 cm. (25 5/8 x 19 5/8 in.)
Estimate HK$1,500,000 – HK$2,000,000
Price Realised HK$2,680,000
Le Pho (Vietnamese, 1907-2001), Elegant Lady by the Fence, ink and gouache on silk, 41×30 cm. (16 1/8 x 11 3/4 in.)
Estimate HK$800,000 – HK$1,000,000
Price Realised HK$1,480,000
Nguyen Gia Tri (Vietnamese, 1908-1993), Se souvenir des belles choses (Beautiful Memories), lacquer on board, 67 x 100.5 cm. (26 3/8 x 39 3/4 in.)
Estimate HK$500,000 – HK$700,000
Price Realised HK$1,180,000
Victor Tardieu (French, 1870-1937), Vietnamienne à l’enfant (Vietnamese Mother and Child), oil on canvas, 120 x 98 cm. (47 1/4 x 38 5/8 in.)
Estimate HK$800,000 – HK$1,000,000
Price Realised HK$1,000,000
Le Pho (Vietnamese, 1907-2001), Les Pivoines (Peonies), ink and gouache on silk, 57 x 72 cm. (22 x 28 3/8 in.)
Estimate HK$250,000 – HK$350,000
Price Realised HK$937,500
Mai Trung Thu (Vietnamese, 1906-1980), Mére et enfant (Mother and Child), ink and gouache on silk, 60 x 43 cm. (23 1/2 x 16 3/4 in.)
Estimate HK$700,000 – HK$900,000
Price Realised HK$1,480,000
Mai Trung Thu (Vietnamese, 1906-1980), Dressing Up, ink and gouache on silk 23 x 80 cm. (9 x 31 1/2 in.)
Estimate HK$250,000 – HK$350,000
Price Realised HK$1,000,000
113 cm. (44 1/2 in.) high
Estimate HK$300,000 – HK$400,000
Price Realised HK$750,000

Christie’s Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses: A Curated Collection of Vietnamese Art is one of Thuc Doan / Bem’s publications as an art translator and advisor. As an independent advisor with expertise in the development of private Vietnamese art collections, offering curatorial, consultancy and market intelligence services for art collectors, buyers and consignors, Bem has been a Vietnamese Topics Advisor, Translator, Interpreter providing reference catalogue, scholarly translated articles and insightful information for Christie’s since then.

Zineng Wang and Thuc Doan / Bem

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