The ancient city of Hoi An is a UNESCO Heritage Site, home to beautiful traditional architecture dating back to the 15th century. The town’s booming tourism industry and cultural vibe make it a mecca for artists in Vietnam, best displayed in these inspiring art galleries.
Although Hoi An’s contemporary art scene is not yet as developed as larger cities in Vietnam, there are a few gems dotted around the ancient town that exhibit and sell original artwork. Here is Culture Trip’s carefully curated selection.
Precious Heritage by Rehahn
Rehahn is an internationally renowned French photographer who now calls Hoi An home. Over the years he has amassed a serious following, published in various international media such as National Geographic, the BBC, and Forbes. The Precious Heritage Art Gallery Museum is a culmination of seven years of his hard work in Vietnam. Through regionally-divided exhibits, Rehahn’s aim is to display the traditional costumes of all 54 ethnic groups in the country. So far, he’s had the opportunity to get up close and personal with 45 of them, having worked tirelessly to obtain permits and access to remote areas. This gallery gives you a once in a lifetime opportunity to see images of these people and their beautiful dresses. The exhibits are free and translated in three languages: French, English and Vietnamese.
Arthouse Vietnam Gallery was founded in 2004 by artist Vũ Trọng Anh, offering a glimpse into Vietnam’s contemporary art scene through a range of abstract art, colourful paintings and intricate sculptures. Anh wants the gallery to foster local talent in the country, which is often overshadowed by the commercial and decorative art popular with tourists. Artists displayed within these walls include Bùi Tiến Tuấn, Siu Quý and Tú Quyên.
Housed in a 200-year-old Chinese trading house, the Hoi An Art and Craft Manufacturing Workshop emphasises traditional Vietnamese culture through its displays, performances and workshops. Skillful on-site artisans craft lanterns, carve wood, shape pottery and embroider silks, using techniques passed down through generations. All of these products can be purchased as souvenirs. It should also be noted that performances occur here daily, including traditional Vietnamese dance, music, theatre and song, as well as hour-long craft workshops. Tickets are available on the corner of Bạch Đằng and Châu Thượng Văn beside the Japanese Covered Bridge.
Au Lac Wood Art was established in 2004 by two young artists, Trần Thư and Nguyễn Việt Linh. The workshop supports disabled people by giving them training and employment, and there are now over a hundred wood carvers at the studio, ten of which are physically impaired. These talented craftspeople create beautifully intricate carvings depicting landscapes, spiritual icons and portraits of people, made to perfection.
Family Friendly, Kid Friendly, Accessible (Wheelchair), Accessible (Deaf), Accessible (Blind)
Hoi An Art Café
The Hoi An Art Café, opened in 2005, displays Swiss-born sculptor Eric Kappeler’s artwork. The venue offers a peaceful ambiance for those seeking to work while surrounded by inspiring art, displayed all around the interior and outdoor garden of the French colonial villa. Kappeler, who also goes by the name Cappellano, models marble and bronze sculptures and will create one for you upon request and have it shipped to your home.
Opened in 2013, the Hoi An Fine Art Gallery is located in the picturesque former French quarter of Hoi An. The gallery displays the work of renowned French photographer Etienne Bossot. His works portray powerful and poetic subjects, such as the feet of monks dressed in their orange robes walking in a line, women at work in the fields, and ethnic minorities, among others. Work displayed in the gallery is not limited to just Hoi An but other countries he’s had the pleasure of photographing, including Sri Lanka, Iran and Bangladesh.
Couleurs d’Asie gallery is another humble yet impressive display of Vietnamese culture through the eyes of photographer Rehahn, who is certainly making his mark in Hoi An. Here you can purchase replicas of his works as souvenirs, and by doing so, a portion of the money goes towards helping the subjects. If you buy one of the limited edition prints, the story behind the photograph will be emailed to you personally. If you’re lucky you’ll find Rehahn himself inside the gallery, who is always happy to share with you stories of his adventures and reasons why he now calls Vietnam home.
Lacquer is one of the most ancient traditional art techniques in Vietnam. You can easily find souvenir shops selling mass produced lacquer products, made cheaply with plastic as a substitute and without much care for quality. Ngàn Xưa Gallery boasts a collection of works by local lacquer artists that use the traditional techniques and real lacquer on wood as a medium. You will find artwork ranging in subject matter from abstract images to landscapes, portraits and street life scenes.
Cotic is an art gallery, boutique and coffee shop all in one. All of the artworks on display are unique, ranging from paintings to figurines, ceramics and even clothing. In addition to art pieces, the boutique store sells traditional handmade lacquer wear, accessories, and even áo dàis, the national costume of Vietnam. Their silver jewellery, linen collection, hand-woven baskets and essential oils are worth taking a look at, too. After browsing and doing some shopping, enjoy a coffee in their courtyard.
Xứ Đàng Trong (Cochinchina) was opened in 2015, housed in a spacious antique house that was once a popular trading store. The gallery displays arts and crafts meticulously created by local artisans, from teabags to handmade furniture, and each piece is both faithful to tradition and well-made by contemporary standards. Part of the profits made here are handed to support local initiatives. As one of the locations included in the tourist pass for the Ancient Town, you can also enjoy traditional performances.