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About

Sàn Art is an artist initiated, non-profit contemporary art organization committed to the exchange and excavation of cultural knowledge within an interdisciplinary community. Sàn Art is an independent arts organization in Vietnam dedicated to promoting, facilitating and showcasing contemporary art predominantly through discourse and education, endeavoring to assist production and stage exhibition where possible with community partners.

Sàn Art (‘sàn’ meaning ‘platform’) was established in October 2007 in response to limited resources and negligible opportunities for contemporary art and culture in Vietnam. In a country that offers little in the way of infrastructure and few alternatives to commercial production, artists must be strategically creative in order to be heard. Sàn Art is thus uniquely placed to fill the gap in access and opportunity by engaging with contemporary discourse through the visual arts, literature, performance and vocational activities such as exhibition, lecture, workshop, artist presentations and residency programs, in conjunction with local and international partners.

Our current premises consists of a public reading room that holds textual and visual material on contemporary art, located on the top floor of Caphe Thu Bay Tre in District 3 in Ho Chi Minh City. Sàn Art works with external partners in locating space to showcase exhibitions of the diverse talent of Vietnam and beyond.

 

…. HISTORY…. in brief…

Sàn Art was founded in October 2007 in a small street-front gallery and reading room in District 1, on Ly Tu Truong Street, in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City. Until mid 2009, it was managed and programmed by its artist founders – Dinh Q Le, Tuan Andrew Nguyen, Phunam and Tiffany Chung.

Due to the rise in rental costs in District 1, Sàn Art subsequently relocated to 3 Me Linh in District Binh Thanh, with a new Director, Zoe Butt (who had been operating as International Advisor to Sàn Art since its founding). In this residential neighborhood, Sàn Art shared a 3-storey villa with ‘The Propeller Group’, a media production house co-founded by Tuan Andrew Nguyen and Phunam. Initially taking over and re-modelling the ground floor as reading room and gallery space, by 2012 Sàn Art had also taken control of the first floor with additional gallery space and dedicated office. This first floor ‘galleria’ was the showcase of Sàn Art’s inventory, artworks taken on consignment as a consequence of their being exhibited at Sàn Art – a 50% commission to Sàn Art that contributed to our ongoing program costs.

In 2012, Sàn Art also initiated two streams of programming that would become significant contributors to the growth of our artistic community of producers, interpreters and audiences – an artist in residency program called ‘Sàn Art Laboratory’ (2012-2015) and a discursive program of lectures, workshops and residencies focusing on knowledge exchange within a ‘Global’ south, called ‘Conscious Realities’ (2013-2016). It was to these two programs that Sàn Art’s space capacity also demanded to be increased, which saw the rental of an additional two villas close by to house four studios and four apartments for our guest producers.

With this expansion in programming came the need for additional human resource, thus the Sàn Art team grew to encompass the following roles: Executive Director & Curator; General Manager; Assistant Curator; Gallery Coordinator and Designer; Program assistant; ‘Sàn Art Laboratory’ manager and International Liaison officer. Its programming also relied on a steady stream of incredible interns and volunteers who were as equally passionate about the arts, who understood the community spirit of friendship required to keep up the energy and focus of Sàn Art.

In early 2015, Sàn Art decided to forgo the rental of gallery space, believing its increasingly limited funding would do best to focus on production and discourse, hoping its local community would step in to lend exhibition space. Its offices relocated to 48/7 Me Linh, District Binh Thanh (previously the studio block of ‘Sàn Art Laboratory’) and indeed our previous collaborators, the ‘Post Vidai Collection’, were instrumental in providing the much-needed space to house our exhibitions, at Saigon Domaine. Sadly in December 2015, it was decided that ‘Sàn Art Laboratory: Session 8’ would be the last session of the program, due to governmental restriction of the educational and exhibition aspects of this artist in residency program (eg. Inability of the Ministry of Culture and Sport to approve experimental forms of art such as performance and video art, in addition to increasing bureaucracy and suspicion towards foreigner participation). With an artist alumni of 23, from Vietnam and South East Asia, Sàn Art is proud of these rising stars who have since gone on to do incredible projects near and far.

In September 2016, in realizing the forthcoming end of ‘Conscious Realities’ that had seen so much outstanding talent visit Ho Chi Minh City from South Asia, South East Asia, Latin America and Africa with thanks to the Prince Claus Fund Network Partnership; and in realizing that the governmental restrictions surrounding the showcase of contemporary art at and with Sàn Art was greatly hindering the ability to raise necessary funds, Zoe Butt decided to step down as Director of Sàn Art.

In December 2016, Sàn Art packed up its inventory and returned it to the artists, said goodbye to the outdoor murals in its courtyard that had been lovingly painted by artists Bui Cong Khanh, Khadim Ali and Sher Ali and largely disbanded as an employed team (though we are all of course still fast friends and working together in different ways). Sàn Art is now operating physically as a Reading Room, with specially designed spaces, on the top floor of Caphe Thu Bay Tre in District 3 in Ho Chi Minh City.

Sàn Art is committed to the exchange and excavation of cultural knowledge within an interdisciplinary community

Our Aim

Sàn Art provides an international platform for the discussion and showcase of contemporary art in Vietnam

To offer opportunities for the local artistic community (through exhibition, education, residency, publication and exchange) to engage international creative practitioners in thinking critically of the relationship between art and society

To further the knowledge and awareness of Vietnamese contemporary art with creative thinkers abroad (eg. curators, writers, historians, artists), through sharing of networks, resources and offering translation services.

To offer a space for the local production of art to flourish within a nurturing environment that understands the various issues and contexts artists face in the realization of their work (eg. Vietnam’s Cultural Ministry demands license for all cultural production, San Art helps with the processing of this material)

To share curatorial/artistic, experience/expertise with the local community to better enable Vietnamese contemporary artists with the skills to engage effective dialogue with opportunities abroad (eg. Preparation of portfolio; handling of budgets; considering of shipping issues and most importantly the ability to clearly articulate their ideas)

To build a centre of knowledge in people and resources (eg. Arts managers, teachers, artists, writers etc) on contemporary art and culture, with primary focus on Vietnam, in order to better enable productive relationships with like-minded thinkers locally and abroad

Staff

  • Nguyễn Bích Trà
    Manager
  • Nhat Q. Vo
    Designer/Program Coordinator

Board of Directors

  • Dinh Q Le
    Co-Founder, Co-Director

  • Brian Curtin
    Curator/Director

Advisory Board

  • Bui Kim Dinh
    Researcher, Goettingen University
  • Joselina Cruz
    Director and Curator, MCAD, Manila
  • Roger Nelson
    Art Historian, Independent Curator
  • Michael Lee
    Artist, Curator, Educator
  • Qinyi Lim
    Curator, National Gallery, Singapore