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A Look Inside Manzi's New Contemporary Art Exhibition Space

Manzi, one of Hanoi’s most well-known artistic hubs and a draw for creative crowds, is expanding.

An integral institution in Hanoi’s ever-fluctuating art scene, this French villa-turned-venue provides contemporary exhibitions, dance performances, artist talks, and workshops. There’s also a café and an eclectic store featuring paintings, prints and books. Yet it is their emphasis on collaboration with, and support of, burgeoning young artists that’s helped them grow into a crucial space for creatives in the capital.

On August 31, they unveiled their latest venture; an expansion into a second location just around the corner at 2 Ngo Hang Bun. At the opening, private viewers perused the new venue’s first exhibition, ‘In-Situ,’ which features six contemporary Vietnamese artists working in silk and lacquer.

It’s somewhat unique for Hanoi to have two separate locations focusing on separate concepts yet bound by the same institution. The new venue is a white-walled gallery with a high ceiling and concrete floors. Adaptable and capable of playing host to many different kinds of events, the new space represents an opportunity to run projects that Manzi’s beautiful villa could not support.

“It will act mainly as an exhibition space and we will host many talks and art events there. We will also have concerts and experimental music,” founder and director Vu Ngoc Tram tells Urbanist Hanoi.

Tram plans to work in partnership with local groups and artists both within Vietnam and in surrounding regions. “We will work together with Hanoi Doclab and Nha San Collective to promote this growing generation of young artists in Vietnam,” she says. “The Goethe Institut is our main sponsor for the space and we are lucky to have their support. Without them, we would not have been able to make it so beautiful.”

The inaugural exhibition, ‘In-Situ,’ includes work by Nguyen Phi Phi Oanh, Le Hoang Bich Phuong, Nguyen Huy An, Nguyen Tran Nam, Nguyen Duc Phuong and Nguyen Minh Thanh. Each uses and reinterprets the traditional mediums of lacquer and silk painting by experimenting with their presentation and subject matter. Whether via Nguyen Huy An's depictions of deteriorating land, or using elements of an old tree in a pagoda for painting materials in Nguyen Duc Phuong’s silk portraits, this classical Vietnamese medium gains new resonance through the artists’ contemporary interpretations.

“We commissioned six artists to create new work using lacquer and silk as their main medium,” Tram says. “These six artists come from quite different backgrounds and generations. It is a mixture of northern and southern artists creating contemporary content with experimental, traditional techniques. For example, Nguyen Phi Phi creates her work on steel or iron — this is the first time in Vietnam that it has been done in this way.”

Yet Manzi’s expansion goes beyond the new exhibition space. They now have the resources to accept artists in residence. Their program will enable selected artists to live above the venue and work in partnership with gallery staff and other Hanoi-based creatives.

Artists’ residencies are growing in number in both Hanoi and Saigon; other notable groups offering such opportunities include live.make.share, Ba-Bau, and Á Space. Manzi’s residency program plans to open for applications before the end of this year.

“We want to focus on Vietnamese artists only, who are based in Hue or Saigon,” Tram says. “The residents will stay in Hanoi for a few months, give talks, workshops and open studios. Maybe next year we can open it up more to international artists, or arrange an exchange with other organizations within the region.”

Manzi’s new exhibition space is likely to make a distinct mark on Hanoi’s art scene and provide a supportive environment for up-and-coming artists. They plan to host a new exhibition every two months, alongside talks, film screenings and music concerts.

“When we set up Manzi, our main vision was to bring art to the public and to do more audience development and try to make things more accessible. We want to create an environment that supports everyone, both young and old, and gives them a safe place to enjoy art and to create.”