Thursday, July 29, 2010

A is for Artist, A is for Asshole

(PICTURE: Hi, I'm an Asshole with a capital A.)

This past weekend a few of us took a motorbike trip out to Thanh Chuong Viet Palace, the residence of perhaps Vietnam's most famous painter -- Thanh Chuong.

I had stumbled upon this house/musuem online during the week and immediately knew I wanted to visit it as soon as possible. Thanh Chuong's house is just about 35 kilometers outside of Hanoi which made for a great day trip. The "Palace" looks ancient but in actuality it was built in the last decade.

Here's the first thing you need to know about Than Chuong Viet Palace: It is without a doubt the most expensive museum I've been to in Vietnam. The cost for anyone to enter and see all of the sites is 100,000 VND. Sure this is only $5 or so but it is about $4 more than any other museum for a Vietnamese citizen. If the museum is trying to prove that art is only for the elite, they're doing a good job.

However, the price of entrance wasn't nearly the most appalling thing we encountered during our trip -- that honor goes to the artist himself. While we were walking through the grounds, I spotted the artist giving a tour to two people carrying pretty nice cameras. I didn't want to interrupt the tour so I didn't say anything to Thanh Chuong. Well, about thirty minutes later I found myself in a room with just Huyen and the artist. Here's a word for word conversation of what went down:
Ben: You have a beautiful house.
Thanh Chuong: (Grunt noises)
Ben: Can I ask you a question about lacquer (the medium he paints with)?
Thanh Chuong: (Footstep noises as he walks away)
Ben: Alrighhhhhhttttttyyyyy....

I've lived in Vietnam for over two years and this was without a doubt one of the rudest interactions I have had. You might be saying to yourself, "Maybe he doesn't speak English." Yeah, sure maybe he doesn't. However, Huyen was right next to me to interpret. On top of that, 99% of people I have ever asked questions to in English that don't speak English just smile and motion that they don't understand. This douche bag literally grunted.

I was obviously really put off by this encounter and wanted to share what happened with one of the guys who had come with us that day. I went up to Nate (Nicky's old roommate who is visiting for a week) and told him my story. He laughed and said that he too had tried to say something to the painter and got a disgusted grunt in return.

There are many adjectives to describe artists. For this particular artist, the only adjective that comes to mind is Asshole. I guess this is to be expected of a guy who opens a museum/palace named after himself.

All that said, there is no doubt that the grounds of the museum were beautiful. However, if you're reading this, save yourself the trip and go to another beautiful spot around Hanoi.