We brought you this story about the problems with Vietnamese art in May. Now the New York Times tackles the issue of forgeries and the havoc of war in Vietnamese art. Reacting to the onslaught of American forces, the Vietnamese commissioned reproductions of their artistic treasures. But there was little oversight of the process and now confusion reigns as originals and copies circulate without much control or authentication. Normally, the Vietnamese would not care so much about the issue but economic success has brought attention to the arts and to the issue of authenticity:
Nguyen Qui Duc, who owns a small gallery and promotes young artists, said this new openness about the nation’s artistic treasures could be taken in the spirit of a policy called hoi nhap, which means integration or assimilation.
“This is the buzz word now,” he said, as Vietnam seeks to integrate itself further into the world economy and conform to international standards and practices.
“It’s basically an economic slogan, but I see it being applied everywhere,” Mr. Duc said. “If we are going to join the world, we’ve got to start doing these things right.”
The mysteries of the museum are part of a broader problem of authenticity that has threatened the value of Vietnamese art on the international market. Copies have proliferated since the early 1990s, when the closed communist economy opened, and Vietnamese art became popular abroad. […]
Some artists have grown wealthy by turning their studios into copying enterprises, said Nora Taylor, an expert on Vietnamese art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Concerning one prominent artist, Hong Viet Dung, she said: “He had like a factory churning them out. Like the ‘Woman With a Bird,’ everyone had to have a ‘Woman With a Bird.’ You don’t know if they’re by the artist or a student, but they were selling all over the place. Now he’s rich and he has a villa and a Mercedes.”
In addition, Ms. Taylor said, Vietnam has never had a strong culture of documentation and proof of provenance. Classic works have been reproduced without concerns for authenticity in order to display them more widely.
Legacy of War (New York Times)