What started as a project by the french -but living in Vietnam- Sophie, has now grown into a company that offers several tours in both Saigon and Hanoi, run by four tour guides, including Sophie herself.
We never met her, since our tour was lead by the Brit Stu.
Let me tell you how our tour went down and give you my opinion about this tour.
Review Sophie’s Art Tour Saigon
Our tour guide Stu
We were met by charming Stu early morning in a cafe (Gao) in a former colonial mansion.
Together with the rest of the group (a couple from Vancouver, a Dutch guy from Amsterdam and a girl from the UK) we listened to Stu’s intro for the tour, while having a drink.
After that, we were driven around in a mini-van from location to location till the end of the tour, about 4 hours later.
Stu turned out to be a great story-teller, knowledgeable about art, history and Vietnam and with a good sense of humour. What’s not to like?!
Private Duc Minh Gallery
We started at a private gallery, Duc Minh gallery, where we were not allowed to take pictures. There was a lot of beautiful art and there were many interesting stories to be told.
Stu kept feeding us information, even when riding on the bus.
He told us about Ho Chi Minh (the man, I mean), …
…. about important artists and about developments in Vietnamese art history. Making the tour really about art, history and art history. Very interesting!
He made frequent use of his iPad to illustrate his story with images. Worked like a charm.
Hien Minh Art Gallery by Nguyen Thi Hien
We then went to Antique Street, to Hien Minh Art Gallery, run by the famous artist Nguyen Thi Hien, an elderly lady -she still paints- that we unfortunately did not meet in person.
But we did see some of her gorgeous art work.
And we saw a lot of sketches coming from the portfolio of a famous combat artist.
Stu used the life and art work from Nguyen Thi Hien and the enormous collection of sketches from the combat artist to paint a picture of what went down before, during, and after the war.
What was the impact on the people in general, on artists specifically, and how did the regime use art as a tool, e.g. to boost moral. Fascinating stuff!
Last stop was Salon Saigon, an art space (both gallery and meeting place) in a heritage building, founded by a private art collector. The building is beautiful and the initiative is interesting.
Conclusion: ***** for Sophie’s Art Tours
Sophie’s Art Tours are of high quality. If I would have had more time, I would definitely have done their architecture tour as well.
Don’t expect to see heaps of art, especially not a lot of modern art. It’s more of an in-depth tour. A limited number of galleries and a limited number of artists are well-chosen, so that showing their work and telling their stories gives a broad and deep insight in Vietnam’s recent (art) history.
What was the most interesting or fun art tour you ever joined?