Bui Thanh Phuong

Vietnamese Painting : Enter


The Bui Xuan Phai Foundation, named after the venerable painter, was launched on the occasion of his 20th death anniversary on June 20. Bui Xuan Phai was well-known for his paintings of Ha Noiís Old Quarter and highly respected for his strong values. A vast collection of his work can be found in many galleries around the world. The painter received the highest national award, the Ho Chi Minh Prize, posthumously in 1996.
Culture Vulture sat down to talk with his son, artist Bui Thanh Phuong, about the foundation he set up to commemorate his fatherís contribution to art.

Why did you choose to launch the Bui Xuan Phai Foundation 20 years after the painterís death? What is its mandate?

The foundation was set up by myself and one of the largest art collectors of Bui Xuan Phaiís works, Tran Hau Tuan.
I wanted to set up the foundation about 10 years ago but I lacked the finances and the support from my family that I needed. In the beginning my purpose was to make the foundation popular. The first person I turned to discuss funding was art collector Tuan. He immediately agreed and said "my father gave me life but Bui Xuan Phai gave me a lifetime of [his] work." For me, Phai bequeathed me both.
I must emphasise that we raised funds as a way to express our gratitude to Phai for many of his great contributions to Vietnamese art.
I think most projects need time before they can become a reality. We decided that his 20th death anniversary was the right time to launch the foundation as he is a well-known artist on a global level.

Where does the foundation get its financial support from?

The foundation has an initial investment of US$30,000, made by Tuan and I. This sum has been deposited in the bank and we will use the yearly interest towards setting up the Bui Xuan Phai Prize. The prize is not much, about $1,000, but we hope to increase the value of the prize every year.

Tell us more about the prize. What prompted you to start it?

The Bui Xuan Phai Prize is being created in a bid to encourage new painters to work for the country and for their beloved Ha Noi.
We plan to mobilise and raise funds from both Vietnamese and foreign friends who share a love and appreciation for Phai. Additionally, we will raise money from auctions and exhibitions.
In future, we hope to expand the foundationís platform to offer scholarships in Phaiís name. We want more artists to be awarded this prize.

When do you plan to award it?

The prize will be awarded on September 1, each year, on the artistís birthday. All work in fine arts as well as literature centering on Ha Noi will be considered.
Both of us are very busy with our personal affairs so we cannot look up the artistsí activities. Luckily, we were introduced to the editorial board of The Thao & Van Hoa (Sport &Culture) newspaper who will assist us in the operation and holding of the award ceremony. We have met the newspaperís editor-in-chief Ngo Ha Thai twice to discuss the first ceremony.
The awarding ceremony will be held at my house. I want people to be able to see for themselves where the artist was born, lived, worked and eventually died. This will bring people closer to understanding him and what influenced him.

Have you decided on the recipient of the award?

We have not decided yet. It may be painter/journalist Nguyen Thu Thuy for her work Ceramic Road. Her piece was created to commemorate and celebrate the 1,000th birthday of Thang Long, the name of the old capital. ó VNS

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