Memory Space: Remembering Prolific Vietnamese Artist Le Ba Dang in Hue’s Newest Art Gallery

Le Ba Dang Buddha

June 2019 mark the opening of Hue’s newest art gallery Memory Space; a collection of works prolific Vietnamese artist Lê Bá Đảng. As Hue refines its reputation as the cultural heritage capital of Vietnam, Memory Space might be Hue’s most impressive gallery to date.

Who is Lê Bá Đảng?

Born in 1921 in Quang Tri (60 kilometres from Hue), Lê Bá Đảng grew up in a fairly wealthy family during the last feudal dynasty and the French colonial period of Vietnam. Once finishing his primary education at 18, he sensed a desire to move to France and worked in a French factory producing arms and munitions. During the second world war, he found himself twice in police custody and sentenced to time in refugee camps and prison. It wasn’t until after the end of the war that France was a more friendly environment to his migration. He soon after enrolled into an art course in Toulouse. It was here that Lê Bá Đảng's natural talent for art was acknowledged and developed.

art in Hue

When Lê Bá Đảng reached his thirties, art galleries around France began to hold his exhibitions. His first works were heavily inspired by recollections of country and self-identity. Family portraits, agricultural settings and scenes from wartime Vietnam made up a large proportion of his work.

By the 1960s and 1970s, his work received invitations for exhibitions further afield in Europe and the USA. He became more experimental with the forms his art took. The themes darted between the realities of war and the surrealism of mythology.

Once Vietnam had reached reunification, Lê Bá Đảng returned to his home town in Quang Tri to help in bringing his community back together.

Gallery art Hue

With the unfortunate death of his son at the start of the 1980s, Lê Bá Đảng’s art took a shift closer towards existentialism and the worth of life. As he got older, these existential pieces became more worldly, space-dimensional and even spiritual.

On his passing in 2015, a funeral was held in paris as well as several locations around Vietnam. 

Lê Bá Đảng’s art demonstrates a pursuit to a greater understanding of the meaning of life. While his work goes beyond our own world and into fictitious realms, he frequently incorporated beliefs of his native country of Vietnam such as the kitchen God Ong Tao and depictions of Buddha.

The Story of Lê Bá Đảng's Memory Space

gallery art hue

During his lifetime, Lê Bá Đảng expressed a vision for a space that would serve for the creativity and imaginations of those that wondered the dimensions of art. A paradise for artists to meet and discuss not only the works of Lê Bá Đảng but the works and ideas of other artists too.  Although Lê Bá Đảng’s passing in 2015 left his dream unfulfilled, his assistant Mrs Le Cam Te made it her own undertaking. She has spent the past 4 years working tirelessly to bring the artist’s vision to reality.

With the support ofLê Bá Đảng’s wife Mrs. Myshu, Mrs. Cam Te began by acquiring the spacious land atop of a hill in Huong Thuy, Hue. After numerous discussions with architects and designers, the main building of Memory Space was carefully constructed to closely resemble the shape of one Lê Bá Đảng’s paper artworks. To bring the new gallery closer to the ideals of an ‘artists’ paradise’, Mrs. Cam Te put extra emphasis on the shrubbery of the landscape to provide additional spaces for the conversations and meetings of guests to Memory Space.

While the main exhibition at Memory Space consists of works by Lê Bá Đảng entrusted and given to Mrs Cam Te over the final years of the artist’s life, there are plans to host temporary exhibitions and performances from the local Hue art community. We are very excited to see what the future holds for Memory Space.

How to Get to Memory Space: Le Ba Dang

Memory Space: Lê Bá Đảng is some way out of the city, closer to the Abandoned Waterpark and Khai Dinh Tomb. At the time of writing, there is no google maps marker or website. This google maps link is approximately where it is located. Around this area you will see signs directing you to the Memory Space: Lê Bá Đảng museum.

Opening times are 8:00-12:00 and 14:00-18:00.

Artist Hue Vietnam Le Ba Dang

OO Cafe: Contemporary Art Cafe Hue

OO Art Cafe in Hue

Millennial Hue

2017 oversaw local establishments take inspiration from contemporary designers on the world’s stage. This is evident with the new entertainment complex Cask and nightclub Factory 075 in the Pham Ngu Lao area. Business owners know that eye-catching architecture and photogenic products are key to success in the social media age. Millennial Hue want to be competing with their peers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. They have the artistic integrity and the city is giving them the space to produce it.

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OO Cafe: Contemporary Art Cafe Hue

Khanh wanted to open a cafe that is modern, all-inclusive and has the facilities for art exhibitions. He employed Hue-based architect Phu Chi Kim Toan of Fu Atelier to make his vision a reality. The pair spent three months carefully designing every aspect of the cafe before opening in January 2018. Preparing and planning was time well-spent. The concept is delicately cosmopolitan and the trendy crowds the cafe attracts proves it is an early success.

Vietnamese Art Cafe Grit Tour

OO Cafe is situated in the Citadel and is only one street from the Royal Palace. Nguyen Trai street separates the cafe from a small lake. Coffee drinkers perched in the window often contemplate over the duality of still water and passing traffic. Open from 6am to 10pm, the building itself suits all hours. Bright colours bring vibrancy to the cafe while a transparent roof protects it’s customers from turbulent weather. Out the back lies a well-lit gravel garden with furniture suited for groups that want to enjoy the outdoors either in dusk or Hue’s intermittent sunshine.

The Menu

Coffee is served in both Vietnamese and international varieties. Ice-blends favor the sweet-toothed patron with matcha and caramel flavours for 32,000VND  a glass.  I personally recommend the blueberry smoothie (sinh to viet quat) for a yogurty splash of summer breeze on a hot day. Other soft drinks include fruit shakes, juices and red bull for good measure. Cappuccinos and short shots of caffeine are also available for the ‘no funny business’ consumer.

Khanh says that with his beverage choice, he likes to keep his coffee simple. An espresso with condensed milk is what he takes after breakfast to start his day.

00 art cafe Hue Grit Tour

The Owner and Hue Art

Khanh is a local photographer and artist who has held installations and exhibitions around Vietnam and South-East Asia. 2018 will be a busy year for the young artist with exhibitions in Saigon, Singapore and the Netherlands.  Khanh designed OO Cafe with the intention of the cafe doubling up as a gallery in the future, featuring works by local and international artists. OO Cafe already displays some of his own work.

Born and raised in Hue City, Khanh has an adoration for his hometown’s tranquility. He finds inspiration from his surroundings, whether that is the people he meets, the stories he hears or the places he visits around Hue. He says his work in video and photography demonstrates a personal relationship between time and memory. The strong iconography in his work depicts an intimacy with familiar Vietnamese environments, both urban and agricultural.

When asked about the future of the art scene in Hue, Khanh said;
‘We just passed an incredible generation of local-based artists but the lack of funding to support their work has meant a decline in exhibitions and new projects. The art scene is still evolving but not at the pace it used to. Nevertheless, there are still a great number of artists that live here, it just takes some work to find them.’

00 Art Cafe Hue Grit Tour

OO Cafe
99 Nguyen Trai
Hue

OO Cafe facebook page
Phan Dinh Khanh’s Website
Fu Atelier’s Facebook Page

Grit Tour Hue Vietnam