We use art as a guide for exploring the story of Saigon and Vietnam. Starting with the ancient history of southern Vietnam, we look at traditional Khmer and Cham pieces before exploring dynastic art, the art of the French colonial period, communist propaganda and battlefield art. We wrap up with a look at what’s happening in contemporary art. We’ll reference the art back to its context in the evolution of Saigon and Vietnam to the present.
We begin with the Cham and Khmer presence in southern Vietnam and the sacred art created by these rival ancient kingdoms – depicted graphically on the walls of the Bayon temple at Angkor Wat.
When Nguyen Huu Canh claimed the swampy communities of Saigon for the Hue-based Nguyen clan in 1698, making Saigon a Vietnamese settlement, the function of art shifted.
The French colonial period brought another break from the past with techniques and purpose that fuelled the rise of communist propaganda and the battlefield art of the mid twentieth century.
Today, Vietnamese artists are exploring new terrain and we’ll acquaint ourselves with the work of contemporary artists with a gallery visit – a good opportunity to consider the cultural life running in parallel with Vietnam’s booming economy.
Our exploration of art will be referencing the city’s developing story. Where possible, the tour includes a chat with a local gallery owner or artist for a better sense of the current scene.
Duong, our co-founder and your guide, has been interested in Vietnamese art since she graduated from university and began working for a contemporary art gallery in Saigon. She counts many important Saigon based artists among her friends. Her interest in Vietnamese art has expanded beyond the contemporary scene to the centuries of art that have been created here and the connection between art and the city’s story.
WHO YOU ARE
You’re a curious, active traveller interested in exploring Saigon through the city’s religious architecture. You’ll need to be mobile – but we move at a casual speed. Expect to be on your feet for 3 – 4 hours with some breaks.
HOW DO WE GET AROUND
We walk between some of the places we visit. For longer distances we travel by taxi or minivan (included).
The tour commences at 8.30AM at The Old Compass Cafe in the heart of Saigon where we begin with a briefing. We conclude at around 12PM in District 1.
WHAT YOU NEED
Comfortable walking shoes, hat, sunscreen.
$75USD per person
Expert guide, drinks, tablet presentation, morning coffee / refreshments at Old Compass Cafe briefing, entrance fees, transport (taxi or minivan).
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. You should be holding comprehensive travel insurance.