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Stories of Vietnamese painters selling their paintings

Ms. Minh, the daughter of painter Tran Luu Hau who used to sell paintings at the 7th Hang Khay gallery in the past, in a conversation with me once said: “There are no good or bad paintings, only paintings that can be sold or cannot be sold.”. Then she cited: “Yes, this shop has a painting that every artist who enters the gallery says it is beautiful, but for years no one has asked. Recently, a painting was sent in the morning and sold in the afternoon, while the painters who visited all called it ugly! So what do you say?”

This is a commercial view of paintings by a salesman with many years of direct experience, an interesting perspective that people who are not involved in the sales market never know, and once they know it, it is difficult to understand.

The same goes for selling paintings at home. There are pictures that don’t look good, the author intends to hide, but the buyer pulls it out and picks it up. Don’t know how.

When I went to France to do an exhibition at the Vietnam Cultural Center in District 13, Paris, Mr. Tich Ky, an overseas Vietnamese from Hanoi, bought this painting. Bich Dong Pagoda mine. He said: “This is not the most beautiful picture among the paintings you have here. I chose it because the roof tiles of the pagoda are so well painted. I bought it so that every time I look at the roof tiles of the pagoda, I don’t miss my hometown.“.

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The painting “Bich Dong Pagoda” was bought because the customer liked the tile roof.

In 1993, my brocade drying painting was purchased by an American customer. Before that, I was attentive for hours looking at the pastel painting Spring is born Selling my abstract, thought I would buy it, but then she chose to dry brocade paintings. She said: “The painting is beautiful and attractive to me, but I don’t understand it. I only buy pictures that I can understand, even though they may not be pretty“.

Also at the 1993 exhibition at 16 Ngo Quyen, Hanoi, an American lady came to choose to buy a painting, and promised to bring a translator the next day to learn more. The next day, she pointed to a series of paintings and listened to me explain each picture carefully, she was very happy, bought 7 more pictures. That year was full of paper pictures.

A French lawyer bought the painting Broken mine. It depicts a woman walking with a baby holding an umbrella. Behind, on the dark background, there are three color bands in the door rido curtain that are tilted, hinting at the breakup. Lawyer liked, bought for 300 USD. 300 USD at that time was more than 6 gold bars. The next day, he returned to the gallery to chat, very excited about the painting he had just owned. But then he shrugged: “Too expensive“. I told: “Sir, the painting money you bought is still here, if you are not satisfied, you can return the painting, I will refund the money.. Then he laughed. “No, I won’t be able to sleep if I give it back. I like that picture. Think three days to buy it“. It turned out that he had entered the exhibition a few days earlier without my knowledge.

Coming to this exhibition, an elderly man, perhaps the size of a company director, brought an old foreign visitor to ask to buy that painting. Thai girl. Painting for 250 USD. He bargained: “150 USD okay?”. Before I could reply, he added: “That’s fine, it’s just that people from abroad come and want to buy a picture as a souvenir”.. You have to directly hear the voice to see the contempt and grace in that sentence. Suddenly anger came, I said: “He took the guest out of my gallery immediately. I don’t want to be treated like that“. He was startled, his face changed, he looked at me like he was looking at a monkey and didn’t say anything, murmured a few words in Western and then took the guest out of the room.

The next day, a Dutch customer came to show the painting, knowing the price of 250 USD, he bought it right away! So chasing customers back to get another 100 USD!

At that time, the exhibition hall was rented as a restaurant. At 7 p.m., a Japanese customer came in and chose to buy 5 paintings, both painted and paper, with a total amount of 1,350 USD. I removed the painting, and he went upstairs to have dinner. Only now did I know how many currencies he had, from USD to Hong Kong dollar, Singapore dollar. I was confused when Ms. Bich – the interpreter and curator of the exhibition – said: “Don’t be afraid, we can change it to Vietnamese currency.”.

Around 9 pm, the guest and a few friends finished eating, went down to pay for the painting, one of the group pulled back and took away a $50 bill, signaling that he wanted to reduce it. I annoyed. Total paintings cost 1,500 USD, I have reduced to 1,350 USD, now less again! I don’t like children’s games, so I quickly told them to hang up the pictures and not sell them anymore. The Japanese guest was dumbfounded. They said something to each other and then quietly left the room. And I go to the guesthouse.

At ten-thirty at night, I woke up to a phone call. Uncle Trach in charge of the exhibition told the Japanese guest to come back and apologize, saying that his friend had done something rude while drunk. He wanted to pay the full amount and asked to receive the painting. I agree. He then bought another painting of that painting for $100.

Looking back, it’s strange, chasing customers away and then selling more than money!

In the same exhibition, there was a young Frenchman who pointed to a painting that was priced at 100 USD and asked for the best price. I immediately said 80 USD. Quietly for a moment, he said”70 USD okay, okay”. I don’t like the type of random trading like buying water spinach but then let it go, still nodding.

He passed in the afternoon, gave out 65 USD. I was so annoyed that I shook my head, refusing to sell. He froze for a moment and then left. At about five o’clock in the afternoon, he returned, brought the full 70 USD and asked for the painting, and at the same time explained that he was a student, so he was poor and had financial difficulties. When I finished packing, I gave him $5 back, and I saw a strange look of surprise in the boy’s eyes.

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“Hidden Hero” – oil painting on a sack of hemp was sold to a Swedish customer in 1986.

Remember in 1986, I sold the picture Hero of Hide – the first oil painting I painted on a sack – for the Swedish guest; price 1,500 VND. He said “Can I buy 1,200 VND?”, I agree. After paying, before he took the painting away, I asked Ms. Bich to take 200 dong and give it back to him. The customer was surprised to ask the reason, I told him he was the one who opened the shop, so I shared with him a little fortune, which is an oriental custom. The guest was stunned and understood, happily put the money in his pocket and thanked him forever before leaving. But the next day, he dragged 5 experts from Bai Bang paper factory to buy paintings!

Buying and selling paintings has many more fun stories, please tell me another opportunity.

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