11/12/2009 | 10:52:00

From Hanoi to Houston

The American people now have the chance to learn more about Vietnamese fine arts, as well as its culture, when ‘Arts of Ancient Vietnam: From River Plain to Open Sea’ opens at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (MFAH), Texas.

The exhibition, with more than 100 artifacts, is aiming to illuminate the age-old and rich culture of Vietnam to the American people.

The exhibition will also address the historical, geographic and cultural context of pre-colonial Vietnamese art. Throughout its long history, Vietnam has served as a hub for trade routes connecting Asia and the West, with travellers, merchants and trade vessels coming from as far west as India and Rome.

Co-organised by the New York-based Asia Society and the MFAH, the exhibition hopes to strengthen relations between research organisations from Asia and the US .

Artifacts dating back to the first millennium BC up through the 17 th century, which includes objects from the civilisations of Dong Son, Sa Huynh, Oct Eo, Phu Nam, Champa and the Viet dynasties Tran and Le, are on display at the MFAH.

Highlights from the exhibition include ritual bronze, terracotta burial wares, fine gold jewellery, Hindu and Buddhist sculptures, and ornaments made of jade. The works, which are on rare loan from Vietnam ’s 10 leading museums, have never before been exhibited abroad.

Independent scholar Nancy Tingley is the curator of the exhibition. She first came to Vietnam in 1988 and later began to develop an idea that involved opening an ancient art exhibition about Vietnam in the US .

Although she received several positive responses from Vietnamese museums, Tingley was unable to continue pursuing the project due to the US embargo on Vietnam . In 2001, she re-started her work after the Asia Society asked her if she was still interested in developing an exhibit.

“The idea of Vietnam formerly being a trading centre in Asia came into my mind, and I explored the idea as a way to reduce the exhibition’s scale, while still keeping the key idea,” she said.

The exhibition has been divided into four sections according to date, which includes the country’s first period (from 1,000 years BC to the 2 nd century), Phu Nam archaeological objects (from 1 st to 7 th century), Champa civilisation (from 5 th to 15 th century) and ceramic trading (from 12 th to 17 th century).

‘Arts of Ancient Vietnam : From River Plain to Open Sea ’ opens to the public until January 3,2010, and will then travel to an exhibit at the Asia Society in New York from February to May, 2010./.

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