Vietnam News

Artist forced to destroy paintings for ‘unlicensed exhibition’

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The People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City decided to fine painter Bui Quang Vien VND25 million ($1,068) and ordered him to destroy 29 paintings for an “unlicensed exhibition.”

The HCMC People’s Committee administratively sanctioned Vien for organizing the exhibition “Improvisation” without seeking a license first.

Previously, the exhibition displaying a series of abstract works created by Vien took place from July 15-30 in HCMC, attracting hundreds of art lovers.

According to the artist, the artworks on display feature lyrical abstraction, fauvism, fluxus and dadaism styles.

Pham Van Dung, chief inspector of the HCMC Department of Culture and Sports, the unit advising the local People’s Committee, said Monday the artworks were supposed to be confiscated and destroyed in the presence of an authorized witness.

“But after working with Vien on July 22, the inspection team had allowed the artist to destroy the works himself.

“Vien also pledged not to repeat the crime. The conclusion of the inspection determined the paintings did not contain sensitive content,” he said.

The decision later received some public backlash, with some saying authorities handled the situation too rigidly and should not force the destruction of the artist’s works.

Dung also believes the regulation on forcing the destruction of paintings for an unlicensed exhibition is not appropriate for today’s context of artistic creativity.

On Aug. 15, the People’s Committee sent an urgent dispatch to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, proposing to cancel the current regulation forcing the destruction of artworks on display when organizing unlicensed art exhibitions.

According to the committee, this regulation is not really necessary.

“During the pending period for the law to be reviewed and revised if needed, the matter will still be resolved according to the current law,” Dung said.

The artist will receive an official sanction decision in the upcoming days.

He said that at first, he only displayed his paintings for the purpose of showing his friends, so he did not know he needed a license.

“I am subject to an administrative penalty for not applying for a permit to display my paintings, but I will appeal against being forced to destroy my paintings. The works are like my children. My paintings are not pure violations of customs or morals,” said the artist.

Bui Quang Vien was born in 1979 in Bien Hoa Town, southern Dong Nai Province. He entered the painting profession in 2002. After a while, he stopped drawing to pursue poetry, taking the stage name Bui Chat. He later returned to drawing in 2019.

By Mai Nhat – – August 17, 2022

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