I made art a priority in Hanoi, and I am so glad I did. The city is full of inspiring and illuminating work, all housed in dynamic creative spaces. Here is a roundup of three unique art spaces in Hanoi that can offer a deeper perspective of the city during your visit. I highly suggest you check them out, because there is no greater view into the soul of a culture than through its creatives.
As you walk through the gate of this restored French colonial house in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, you’ll find a beautiful little outdoor courtyard and a peaceful, sun-lit café. Upstairs is the gallery, with work by 10-20 artists hanging on the walls, sitting on tables, or resting on the floor. The work was primarily prints and photographs, but sculptures and paintings were scattered throughout. A lot of the work was priced under $500 so it’s a great place for buyers on a budget. We were excited to purchase a print called “Offroad” by Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng.
A well-priced artwork by a well-known Vietnamese artist was the best souvenir! We had tea in the sitting room upstairs while the print was packed and the sale was finalized.
The staff was so friendly and knowledgeable. They told us about the artist and explained that the print was related to a public artwork that was about to be installed nearby.
Manzi is a great place to hang out, have some coffee or a drink, explore a wide variety of work by local artists, and even take something home!
14 Phan Huy Ích, Nguyễn Trung Trực, Ba Đình
Hà Nội, Vietnam
We walked in to this gallery looking for Nhà Sàn COLLECTIVE, which they told us had moved. It was a blessing in disguise, because this gallery was full of beautiful, contemporary work by Vietnamese artists that I can’t stop thinking about. The gallery is located in the Old Quarter, on the second floor of a creative complex where you’ll also find Ly Quoc Su Art Café (LACA Cafe) and the delicious Pizza 4P’s.
My favorite pieces hanging in the gallery were photo reliefs by Nguyen the Son. The material is not listed, but the photos look like they were printed on foam core and then cut, the pieces arranged to recreate Hanoi street scenes that provide a new perspective on every day life in the city.
We also fell in love with artist Ha Tri Hieu‘s work.
Spend some time browsing the art and explore the gallery’s catalog and collection of books. Then go get some amazing pizza.
24 Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm
Hà Nội, Vietnam
We finally tracked down Nhà Sàn COLLECTIVE, and so much more, in this vibrant, overstimulating enclave. The area is gated in, with structures made out of shipping containers sitting in a large courtyard outside of a 20-story building. The containers house a gallery to the right and a skate shop to the left with a skate park in front. There is an outpost of the seemingly ever-present, very cool Cong Ca Phe in the corner.
Before entering the building, we walked through the shipping container gallery to see Shakespeare Lives in Photography, part of a year-long series of events commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, organized together by the British Council, the British Embassy, and Hanoi Creative City. The exhibition showed photographs by 11 winners of a contest run by the British Council, as well as photographs from live Shakespeare performances around the world. It was interesting, although it fell a little flat.
Next, we headed inside, where there is everything from fine art to climbing walls, jewelry stores, noodle shops, and offices.
We took the elevator up to the 15th floor to see what we came for – a group show put on by Nhà Sàn COLLECTIVE called Mise-en-scène. It did not disappoint. There was a diverse selection of mixed-media installations by Vietnamese artists discussing the duality that humans face in both creating regulations and being controlled by them. The space was divided into individual rooms for each installation, each with its own unique atmosphere. My favorite installation was “Lost Pixels,” a work by Nguyễn Quốc Thành. He took photographs and cut the people out of them, creating silhouettes that were fixed to a window and filled in by the gorgeous backdrop of the French colonial neighborhood beyond. The photos hinted at what we assumed was there, but could not know for certain, and reminded us that there is always more to a scene or a story than what we can see in a snapshot.
On our way back down in the elevator, the door opened on the 6th floor to a scene so extremely bright and colorful that we had to check it out. This was Doo Entertainment, which takes up the 6th and 7th floors at Hanoi Creative City.
As we walked through we saw archery, climbing walls, digital games, batting cages, giant card games, and more. Basically, every teenager’s answer to “What should we do?” We were going to pass on participating until we came to the final activity – escape the room. When an employee told us one of the options was the Cu Chi Tunnels, we were definitely in. We hadn’t visited the actual tunnels, so this was our chance to fit them in.
Long story short, it is very intense and I learned that if I am ever trapped in a small, underground series of rooms, I will just panic until someone gets me out. Good to know. We didn’t manage to escape, and once we were out we were told nobody ever had.
Needless to say, there is something for everybody at Hanoi Creative City.
Số 1, phố Lương Yên, quận Hai Bà Trưng,
Hà Nội, Vietnam
By Evy Bround