In this era of COVID-19, time appears to be standing still or ticking in slow motion. With everyone waiting for things to reopen, there seems to be a blurring of past, present and future. What was it like before this crisis? What will it be like thereafter? Will it ever be the same…and do we even want it to be?
Despite valiant efforts by artists, galleries and museums to keep us engaged virtually during this period of isolation, there’s nothing like stepping into an art filled space to soak up a much needed dose of real life creative energy. For art enthusiasts eager to get back into museums and galleries, there is light at the end of the dark tunnel.
A few art spaces are beginning to open their doors, and even though international art travel will no doubt be limited for some time to come, it is heartening to see embers of life beginning to glow again. One such real world place is Galerie Quynh in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. On Thursday, May 28, 2020, Galerie Quynh opens “Lunar Breccia,” a group exhibition featuring new and previously unseen works by Hoang Duong Cam, Sandrine Llouquet, Keen Souhlal, Vo Tran Chau, Do Thanh Lang, Hoang Nam Viet and Nghia Dang.
This is a noteworthy opening, not only for its timing, but also for the gallery’s contextualization of space and time itself. Bringing together fragments of Vietnam’s vibrant contemporary art scene, Galerie Quynh – as the title “Lunar Breccia” suggests – fuses together a collection of unique and extraordinary works like a “motley of angular rocks floating in suspension” before the artists continue on their individual orbital paths towards meteoric rise or oblivion. “In the shift away from linear timelines towards explorations of non-chronology, the exhibition and its artworks offer entry to heterotopia – a space that concurrently exists in time yet outside of time, both mirroring yet upsetting what occurs beyond its boundaries,” Quynh says. It’s a perfect metaphor for our current moment where artists and society at large are yearning to break free.
If past informs the present, gallery owner Quynh Pham brings together the best contemporary artists Vietnam has to offer, setting Galerie Quynh apart from the many tourist galleries with their ubiquitous lacquer paintings, portraits of monks and local landscapes, as beautiful as they are. Quynh returned to Vietnam from San Diego, California in 1997 where she was raised and studied art history and criticism, opening Galerie Quynh in 2003, an acclaimed contemporary art space in Saigon’s historic Dakao district, and a frequent participant in international art fairs. Her story was featured in a PBS News Hour segment in 2016 about the evolving new economy in Vietnam (see video below). She has been an active part of Vietnam’s cultural scene, which has benefitted from that economic development, spearheading non-profit and educational initiatives.
As we move beyond the COVID-19 crisis, only time will tell how much of our previous lives and experiences will return to their old trajectories. We can only hope that the creative leadership exemplified by Quynh endures, and that the artists Quynh supports break through to a future of their own making.