Manzi Makes Waves in Hanoi

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a new art gallery and café makes room for Hanoi’s past, present, and future.

By Connla Stokes

By showcasing contemporary art forms and promoting emerging artists in a French-colonial villa, while also being hailed as one of city’s best watering holes, Manzi already seems like a quintessential Hanoi venue for the here and now.

Opened by a trio of self-declared “cultural activists,” Manzi’s raison d’être is to champion myriad forms of art by hosting exhibitions, film screenings, talks, installations, and live music.

“There are no other artist-led spaces in Hanoi that focus on experimental arts, organize quality exhibitions, or educational workshops,” explains Tram Vu, who established Manzi along with Giang Dang, the co-founder of talawas (a cutting-edge cultural webzine frequently firewalled in Vietnam) and Bill Nguyen, an artist and visiting lecturer at the Fine Art University of Vietnam.

The villa, which dates back to the 1920s, is located on a pleasant side-street that has maintained much of its modest historical charm (not to mention a measure of peace and quiet). “We simply tried to restore the original look to the facade with white paint and light grey windows,” says Vu. “In terms of the interior decor, we needed an ambience that suited our multiple purposes… while also serving as a café and bar, too.”

Manzi will host at least six visual art exhibitions every year focusing on young emerging Vietnamese artists, but more established names will also be given a platform. Even if you’re simply in search of a mid-morning coffee, an afternoon snack, or an early evening tipple, Manzi is a wonderful and welcoming haven for all and sundry. Rounding off the experience for visitors is a small shop, which sells works by some of the country’s top contemporary names at affordable prices.

14 Phan Huy Ich, Hanoi, 84-4/3716-3397; opens 9 a.m. to midnight.

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