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 next month at a new gateway to the nation’s art and culture.
The art will hang in the neo-classical lobby of the new five-star Apricot Hotel that celebrated its grand opening in December last year, 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.
She said the exhibition answered a demand from contemporary travellers for a culturally enriching hotel experience that delved into the profound depths of Vietnamese art and culture.
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.”
Following the success of the Genesis exhibition at Apricot Hotel’s grand opening in December, this upcoming show is the next step in the hotel’s ambition to promote Vietnamese art to the world.
Nguyen said plans were afoot to permanently display Phai’s work at the hotel or nearby Apricot Gallery.
Meanwhile, the hotel will mark the official opening of its Avanti multi-level basement theatre with a series of performances by K-pop outfit Bambino in early April. Complete with a pneumatic stage that ‘hovers’ between two floors and a floating DJ station, Avanti caters to up to 300 guests, and is suited to a broad range of events ranging from live performances to wedding receptions and private parties.