HCMC, VietNam -- In both the eight hundred square meter house and ten square meter studio of Dao Minh Tri, the Vice-Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh Art Association, there are wall to wall displays of antique pottery and china. Dao Minh Tri is excited to talk with Sport and Culture Magazine about his desire to establish a new branch of the Ho Chi Minh Art Association dedicated to the preservation of antique art relics from his home country of Vietnam.
S&C: You first became famous in Vietnam for your humanistic paintings that portray feelings of deep longing and spirited vitality through images of fish, but now you seem to be moving into the field of antique pottery collection, is this true?
Dao Minh Tri : I find that the affect achieved by hanging paintings on the walls of my house right next to displays of antique pottery to be both interesting and uniquely congruous. Whether I’m standing up, sitting down, or just lying down on a mat on the floor of my house and looking around, I can’t help but feel as though I am being enveloped in artwork. This is a feeling that gives me both tremendous pleasure and satisfaction.
Over the past twenty years, I have been consciously trying to build an archival collection of antique pottery, porcelain, and clay objects from Vietnam as well as antique from around the world that I collect during my trips abroad. I have been especially active in acquiring antiques in recent years but I wouldn’t call myself a professional collector per say. It has never been a goal of mine to become a collector of antiques, but what has always been important to me was satisfying an innate curiosity and desire for surrounding myself with beautiful artwork.
Imagine for a moment that you are sitting in a quiet room, listening to the sounds of earth and clay hundreds of years old coming at you from all directions, and at the same time are interacting with the voices and spirits that lie within these antiques--and here you are, a thoroughly contemporary soul!
S&C: Is it correct that the reason you decided to found a new branch of the Ho Chi Minh Art Association dedicated to antique artwork was to assemble all of the other collectors in Vietnam who share your passion for antiques?
Tri: Yes, but there is another reason as well: The Vietnam Arts Association including all of the regional and sub-regional arts associations in Vietnam do not yet address the issue of antique collection and preservation. This shortcoming needs to be overcome as soon as possible.
The number of antiques that are currently in the hands of artists throughout Vietnam is even greater than could fit in any one museum. Of course, this does not include all of the antiques that have left Vietnam never to return by way of foreign antique traders. It really is a pity that we have lost so many of our national treasures in this manner. This problem is a very difficult one to avoid of course, but if we organize this new branch in a sensible, systematic, and thorough manner, there is no reason why we cannot preserve a large number of our antique relics.
S&C: Please let me ask you a direct question: Outside of your obvious passion for antiques, do you have any other motivation for collecting antiques such as trying to become rich by buying and selling antiques to other collectors?
Tri: No, although my house is becoming increasingly cramped by the minute I never have and never will go into the antique selling business. I make a living by selling my paintings only. My collection consists of pottery in the Lai Thieu and Oc Eo styles from the 14th century Minh dynasty period in Hue. There are also pieces of pottery from Bat Trang in northern Vietnam as well as ancient axe blades that were found in Dong Nai province. The porcelain in my collection consists of all different types, including bowls, plates, vases, glazed terra-cotta jars etc. There is so much stuff right now that I am going to have to move some of it to my workshop on Tran Khanh Du Street in Ho Chi Minh City.
S&C: In regards to your plans to establish an antique preservation branch of the Ho Chi Minh City Arts Association, who will be the members of this group?
Tri: The association will include archaeologists as well as all of the major independent antique collectors in Saigon. As of the moment, people are only aware of Le Cong Kieu Street as the place for antiques connoisseurs to assemble and share information.
My hope is that in the near future 212A Pasteur Street in District 3, the site of the new association branch, will become the place were both established and amateur antiques collectors can gather to exchange information and network with each other. I also have ambitions to open this field up to include painting and rare books collectors as well, with the hope of working closely with foreigners living in Vietnam.