A trio of ventures are honing Hanoiâ€™s creative edge
By Elisabeth Rosen
With a thousand years of history behind it, Hanoi is Vietnamâ€™s undisputed cultural capital. But the city offers far more than the standard circuit of traditional entertainments (water-puppet shows, anyone?) and contemporary art galleries. Spurred on by a crowd of young expats and talented locals, a small but independent arts scene is flourishing. Here are three venues on the cityâ€™s creative cutting edge.
â€śWe wanted to have a place thatâ€™s not just an artsy cafĂ©, but an art cafĂ©,â€ť says artist and university lecturer Bill Nguyen, one of the minds behind Manzi, which debuted late last year on a quiet lane near Hanoiâ€™s old Hang Dau water tower. Pencil sketches by Le Quang Ha, one of Vietnamâ€™s best-known contemporary artists, line the whitewashed walls of the 1920s colonial villa, where a downstairs bar pours a signature vodka with fresh kumquat and sweet chili, and an upstairs exhibition space features well-priced works by emerging local talents. This summer, the spotlight is on 37-year-old Nguyen Manh Hung, a Hanoi-born sculptor and painter known for his light-hearted social criticism. Monthly concerts showcase musicians such as Tri Minh (the DJ behind Hanoiâ€™s first music festival) and Le Cat Trong Ly, a folk singer who has been hailed as the John Lennon of Vietnam. Manziâ€™s founders also plan to screen experimental documentaries in collaboration with Hanoi DocLab (14 Phan Huy Ich; 84-4/3716-3397).
THE HANOI BICYCLE COLLECTIVE
You donâ€™t need to be a cycler to appreciate this two-year-old bike shop-cum-creative space. Run by Barcelona native Guim Valls Teruel, the venue has hosted the spoken-word series Noi Hanoi and organizes World Music Sundays, a weekly rotation of live performances from an eclectic array of genres. Decked out with soft wicker lamps and wall-mounted bicycles under a ceiling draped in billowing silk, the narrow tube house also sports a convivial ground-floor cafĂ©, Gin & Bread, that serves tapas, salads, potent cocktails, and bocata baguette sandwiches to help you pass the time. Upstairs is a gallery space that is currently displaying a portrait series photographed by Teruel (a former theater director and graphic designer) in Beijing and southern China. â€śArtistically speaking, Hanoi is ready to explode,â€ť Teruel says. â€śBut like any place, it just needs to find the right moment.â€ť (44 Ngo 31, Xuan Dieu; 84-4/3718-8246).
Climb the dusty stairs of a once derelict Soviet-era pharmaceutical complex called Zone 9, and youâ€™ll find a gallery and bar where photographs punctuate exposed concrete walls. In addition to showing visual art, Tadioto, which moved into this space in June, hosts poetry readings, concerts by under-the-radar musicians, and film nights featuring experimental videographer Trinh Thi and avant-gardeÂ composer and pianist Kim Ngoc. Another room showcases unconventional apparel, decor items, and leather bags. Owner Nguyen Qui Duc, a journalist and curator, says of the works shown at his alternative arts space, â€śThe days of state control of art are pretty much done. Artists can express things now that they never could in the past.â€ť Before leaving, stop by Work Room Four, a nearby atelier that houses studios and exhibition areas. As at Tadioto, bare walls provide a backdrop for experimental sculptures and installations (2/F, Bldg. A, 9 Tran Thanh Tong; 84-4/6680-9124).
This article originally appeared in theÂ August/September 2013 issueÂ of DestinAsian (â€śArt Scene: Hanoiâ€ť).