A city is only as dynamic as its art scene.
According to a recent index, Ho Chi Minh City was ranked the sixth most dynamic city in the world. The factors that were taken into account were: inward investment, how many international company’s headquarters there are, growth in the property market, connectivity, economic growth, new business start- ups and higher education. However, the survey didn’t measure how lively the arts are, how many galleries, theaters and orchestras the city has. I don’t think any city can be considered dynamic without a well supported and vibrant arts scene.
Number one in the index is London, which has one of the most vibrant art scenes in the entire world. The art museums all rank highly with visitors and are free to enter. At number two is San Jose, US. Their city art gallery costs USD8 to enter but they offer lively exhibitions and events whereas the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts museum costs only 50 cents a ticket but many of the exhibits have been languishing on the walls for a few years now. Beijing ranks third and offers more than one public art museum. Entry to the National Art Museum is free and the collection is astoundingly varied and beautiful. Shenzen, China, is placed fourth. It does have one art museum but it is ranked in the bottom third of attractions in the city on TripAdvisor. I have never heard of an art museum coming so low in the rankings; I wonder what they got wrong? Shanghai has three art museums and they rank high as attractions on Trip Advisor. Well, Shanghai is currently the biggest city in the world so its galleries ought to be good.
At number six is Ho Chi Minh City. It is the 31st largest city in the world by population. We have one art museum and the entry fee is very affordable at VND10,000. It is ranked number 15 out of nearly 100 attractions in the city, which is quite something. The exhibits are from over 300 years of fine and decorative arts and tell a story of life in southern Vietnam that is rich and varied – all housed in a fabulous mansion which is an experience in itself.
In the past three years, I have seen the art scene in Saigon grow and become livelier. I know from personal experience that artists from Hanoi and Hue are moving south to be a part of an artist-led movement in our city. Saigon-based San Art brings a much needed dimension to critical thinking in contemporary practice and provides a focal point for all artists. Commercial galleries provide support for more established artists through cultural programs and by taking Vietnamese art overseas to international markets. 3A Station is trying to create an “arts quarter” where live performance and street art rub shoulders with independent designers, raising the profile of the arts amongst the young, proving that there are pockets of vibrant arts lighting up the cultural landscape all over the city.
What would add some real dynamism to the arts is to use just a small amount of the revenue from all the new inward investment and inject some cash into our beautiful museum and local art scene to make them as dynamic as the economy.
So let’s make the Ho Chi Minh City art scene more dynamic!