MUSEUM REVIEW: Viet Nam National Fine Arts Museum (VNFAM)

MUSEUM REVIEW: Viet Nam National Fine Arts Museum (VNFAM)

MUSEUM REVIEW: Viet Nam National Fine Arts Museum (VNFAM)
Address: No.66 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Ba Dinh District, Ha Noi, Viet Nam


Viet Nam National Fine Art Museum (VNFAM) is one of the biggest museums in Viet Nam. The building of this museum was originally used as a boarding school for daughters of French officials and it was renovated in 1962 as Viet Nam National Fine Arts Museum. There are two sites of VNFAM they are in Nguyen Thai Hoc street and Hoang Cau Street. It showcases the typical fine arts object of Vietnam from prehistory to the present.

     Vietnam Fine Art Museum  

  Image 1: Vietnam Fine Arts Museum

The total art objects of VNFAM are about 20,000 with 2,000 ones exhibited while 18,000 ones stored in Hoang Cau site. The ideal ratio is 40:40:20, in which 40 for collections, 40 for exhibition, and 20 for others (office, rest room, etc.) (Introduction to Museum Work, G.E.Burcaw page 102). However, only 10% of the total are exhibited. This gap says there might not be enough space for the exhibition.

The art collections include paintings, sculptures, and graphic arts. They are arranged by time, collection, and concept. In terms of time, it is shown from prehistory to contemporary art. By collection, they are shown as national treasures, ceramics, lacquer, paintings, etc. By concept, they are shown by war, religions, contemporary art, and so on.

Image 2: Artwork "Young Ladies and garden" by Nguyen Gia Tri

The most impressive collection of VNFAM is lacquer, silk, and wood paintings of artists from the “Ecole superieure de Beaux Arts d’Indochine” in the first half of the 20th century. There are some representatives such as Nguyen Gia Tri, To Ngoc Van, Tran Van Can, Le Pho, Mai Trung Thu, etc. This is a remarkable time in the development of fine arts in Vietnam when the western artisan technique and aesthetic sense were applied. The museum represents about 50 artworks by nearly 30 artists. There are six artworks from this period exhibited in VNFAM, which were recognized as national treasures by the government. They are 1) “Little Thuy” by Tran Van Can, 2) “Two young girls and kid” by To Ngoc Van, 3) “Young Ladies and garden landscape” by Nguyen Gia Tri, 4) “Granting Party Membership in Dien Bien Phu” by Nguyen Sang, 5) “Uncle Ho in Viet Bac Millitary zone”, 6) “Giong” by Nguyen Tu Nghiem. The subjects of those artworks focus on girls, war, politics, and pre-history culture which reflect the effect of eastern cultures and politics on fine arts in Viet Nam. The soft, gentle style and especially “Ao dai” – the traditional clothing of Viet Nam can be seen a lot in those paintings. However, each artwork is a separate story that is not connected to the other. The visitors don’t know the link between those artworks and so the emotional experience is hard to be attained.


Image 3: Artwork "Little Thuy" by Tran Van Can

Image 4: Artwork "Two young girls and kid" by To Ngoc Van

With the education function, VNFAM did a good job with a label on each artwork that stated the name of the artist with birth and death year, the title, the date, the medium, and the size of the artwork. The label is not only in Vietnamese but also in English and French. In addition, it has audio with a QR code beside it to explain more about the artwork.


Image 5: Label of an artwork

 The graphics art are shown beautifully with a black floor, white wall, and green light which make the art to be brighter and show exactly what should be dark and what should be white color.

Image 6: Contemporary artworks

The storage has a lot of paintings and graphic art with the height and space between the art objects are suitable. The room was fully furnished with air-conditioners and dehumidifiers. However, there are not any boxes to prevent the art from light, so the colors easily deteriorate.


 Image 7: Storage

 The price for the entrance of VNFAM is very cheap at only $1.7 and with an additional $1.8 if visitors want to use the audio function for listening to the explanation. The operating expense of VNFARM is wholly subsidized by the government. Besides, visitors can also access the museum by using 3D technology with explanations for each artwork and it is free. However, there are not many books or publications about this museum’s collections, research, or achievements.

 To summarize, VNFAM’s activities showcase and educate the most valuable artworks that they collect in an aesthetic way but there are still some things needed to improve such as the exhibition space, publications, and storage facilities.

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