Hanoi’s Hidden Graffiti

Some have argued that the street art scene in Vietnam is lacking — consisting largely of half-drawn scrawls and stenciled phone numbers promising everything from backyard bike repair to the hair cut of your dreams (for example). But for those who luck into it, there’s at least one place where all that changes.

Hidden in Hanoi’s super narrow back alleys is a special spot that features some beautiful work, flanked by great street food, homes packed on top of one another, and a truly lovely art gallery. Have a look.

I don’t know the artists (do you? drop a comment) and I make no claim they’re all Vietnamese, but it is nice to see this level of artistic expression on the streets of a beautiful country that has suffered so much. One might imagine that the communist rulers would frown on this combination of lawbreaking and artistic expression, particularly in the capital city. My only thought there is that artists stick together and protect each other. Hence the proximity to Mai Gallery.

I’ll have more on Mai’s and the whole gallery scene in Hanoi soon (suffice to say the best galleries there rival Chelsea’s). The city is booming in ways that it wasn’t just 5 years ago (iPhones are everywhere, people seem happier) but there’s a long way to go (the jobless rate remains high). Still, if the emerging art scene is anything to go by, Hanoi’s future is bright indeed.

See more shots from my visit to Hanoi’s graffiti row on flickr. Thanks to NYT for the pointer and to Jake for the conversation.

Update: Lunar, one of the artists involved, emailed more details on the project:

we were in hanoi in 2007 thanks to hope box project organized by dutch artist rienke enghardt. the artists who participated on the wall across mai gallery (there was works of hope box artists exhibited in it at the same time) were: angel (serbia), lunar (croatia), zorrox and few of his friends (hanoi), the london police (amsterdam) and def p (amsterdam). this is the wall with light yellow background starting with tigers and ending with london police lad characters. on the left site is unfinished piece by angel and me and i also spotted a piece from year earlier, i think it’s a guy from germany who writes zooloo if i’m not mistaken.

See more of Lunar’s work at lunar75.com

7 Responses to “Hanoi’s Hidden Graffiti”

  1. 1 Brian

    This graffiti was done during an event sponsored by the Dutch Embassy in Hanoi. They brought a group in from Holland called Hope Box (http://www.hopebox.nl) who do interesting projects all over the world.
    there is more info about the Hanoi events on my blog here: (http://hanoigrapevine.wordpress.com/2007/11/03/03-05-nov-hope-box-angels-family-event) and here: (http://hanoigrapevine.wordpress.com/2007/10/28/31-oct-hope-box-event-music-jam-8-11pm)
    (the blog has since moved to http://hanoigrapevine.com)
    i don’t know exactly who the artists involved were, but i think there were no (or at best very few) locals.
    There are a couple of sprayers in town, and you can see a bit of what they (and a few foreign kids who live here) do on a stretch of unfinished road going around Tay Ho (West Lake). but that road will be finished soon. other than that there is not much graffiti that i know of here.

  2. 2 Jason

    Thanks for the details, Brian! Hope Box has done some lovely work.

    I hope you and others capture the work out at Tay Ho. Would love to see it. And I’d love to hear thoughts on why the graffiti scene is so small in Hanoi, too — particularly when the art scene in general is so amazing. Is it cultural? Do they fear the government? Something else?

  3. 3 Tran Phuong Mai

    I love your article. Don’t know why I missed the chance to see you at Mai Gallery. I try to find your name in the article but couldn’t. So pls give me your name and contact details. Thanks.

  4. 4 Tran Phuong Mai

    I found your name and contact now. I hope to see you next time when you’ ll have more on Mai’s and the whole gallery scene in Hanoi soon( like you said). Do drop me a line when you are back.

  5. 5 Jason

    Mai, thanks much for the kind words. I dropped you mail.

  6. 6 Light Graffiti

    not bad …

  1. 1 Hanoi’s Hidden Graffiti – Vietnam | sketchy.com

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