Vietnam has been "rediscovered" as a country the last fifteen years. This time, the journalists, back-packers, business-pioneers, foreign aid workers and diplomats have found a place where initiative and inventive solutions are abundant. Western artists, collectors and curators have started pouring into the country in search for some of this innovation. This dissertation is about painters in Hanoi and the social network, the local art world, they are a part of. But it is also about the cultural and economic politics executed by the Vietnamese authorities, and how this restricts or enhances the local art world activity.
There are many other factors governing the art world. What is 'art', and what is not? And what and who decides what could be deemed 'good' art? The various pressure groups within the art world, especially the dealers, critics and curators, make judgements that are of great importance for the artists. We meet a group of artists who have in common that they are all a part of the network of art that springs from the Salon Natasha, an unofficial art gallery run by Russian born Natalia Kraevskaia and her Vietnamese artist husband Vu Dan Tan. This artist network is successful, in that they have managed to create stable connections with the art metropolises outside Vietnam. We also meet artists who are not parts of this network, and see what difference this lack of connections makes. Via these groups we get an impression of what goes on in the Hanoi art world as well as in the global art world.
The most central issue in this dissertation is how the changing political and economic situation that has taken place in Vietnam the last fifteen years, the doi moi or 'open door' policy of renovation, has influenced on the art produced in Hanoi. In what way has the Salon Natasha group chosen to deal with the sudden launching of market economy? And has the coming of Western art world members changed the local art world?
The normative positionings the various artists choose in this new landscape have influence not only on the art they produce, but also on the success they have vis-à-vis the global art world members. What are these positionings, and why is it so important to distinguish oneself from the mainstream of the Hanoian art world? Again we look at the Salon Natasha artists, and how they judge on their artist colleagues.
Through this analysis I hope to make a contribution to the anthropology of art, and to the ongoing debates on non-western art and its place in the global art world.