1

Bonhams is pleased to bring to sale from an important European private collection a selection of works from two of the last vanguards of modern Vietnamese art, Bùi Xuân Phái and Nguyễn Tư Nghiêm. Both artists belong to the last batch of graduates from the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts d’Indochine (1941-1946), and were pivotal in the transmission of a modern sensibility.

This took place against a backdrop of development in Vietnamese art in the immediate post-war years, as artists situated in independence-seeking Vietnam sought new visual languages beyond the apogee of its first generation painters – particularly the diasporic artists in Paris like Lê Phô – who created the aesthetic foundations in silk and lacquer painting. The colour palette of the latter was tropical and true to life but restrained to sorghum browns and greens. Vietnam stood fossilised, in memoriam.

The oeuvres of Bùi Xuân Phái and Nguyen Tu Nghiem centred on the subject matter of daily and ritual life in Vietnam, from the Hanoi old streets beloved by Bùi Xuân Phái to the traditional dances Nguyễn Tư Nghiêm was captivated by. Collectively, they injected realism – and a corresponding sense of romance – into Vietnamese art, steering its identity from the colonial-era preoccupation with deriving vernacular mediums and techniques to a modern, undisguised and more direct engagement with daily life. Dynamism and vivacity mark the fleeting glimpses of life captured by Bui and Nguyen.

Between 1960 to 1990, the address of 60 Nguyễn Hữu Huân was a cafe established by Mr. Lâm called Lâm Cafe. Some of the leading Vietnamese modern artists found Lâm Cafe hospitable and warm. Mr. Lam would extend the artists credit for meals and drinks in exchange for their paintings. In the present lot, Bùi Xuân Phái has painted a colourful and upbeat scene of Nguyễn Hữu Huân.

Bui Xuan Phai (Vietnamese, 1920-1988), Ruelle de Hanoï

Lot 1. Bùi Xuân Phái (Vietnamese, 1920-1988), Ruelle de Hanoï, signed ‘Phai’, lower right; inscribed in Vietnamese ‘Nguyen Van Lam / 60 Nguyen Huu Huan / Hanoi’, on the reverse, oil on board,15 x 21.5 cm. (5 7/8 x 8 1/2 in.). Estimate HK$20,000 – 30,000 (US$2,500 – 3,800)Sold for HK$ 35,625 (€ 4,028) inc. premium. © Bonhams 2001-2019

Property of an important European private collection.

Provenance: Acquired directly from the estate of the artist by the present owner.

Bui Xuan Phai (Vietnamese, 1920-1988), Ruelle de Hanoï

Lot 2. Bùi Xuân Phái (Vietnamese, 1920-1988), Ruelle de Hanoï, signed ‘Phai’, lower left, oil on board, 18 x 24 cm. (7 1/8 x 9 1/2 in.). Estimate HK$20,000 – 30,000 (US$2,500 – 3,800)Sold for HK$ 38,125 (€ 4,310) inc. premium. © Bonhams 2001-2019 

Property of an important European private collection.

Provenance: Acquired directly from the estate of the artist by the present owner.

Bùi Xuân Phái (Vietnamese, 1920-1988), My Khe Beach, Danang, 1981

Lot 3. Bùi Xuân Phái (Vietnamese, 1920-1988), My Khe Beach, Danang, 1981, signed and dated ‘Phai 81’, and inscribed in Vietnamese, lower right, ink and gouache on paper laid on board,33 x 48 cm. (13 x 18 7/8 in.). Estimate HK$30,000 – 40,000 (US$3,800 – 5,100)Sold for HK$ 48,125 (€ 5,441) inc. premium. © Bonhams 2001-2019

Property of an important European private collection.

Provenance: Acquired directly from the estate of the artist by the present owner.

Bùi Xuân Phái (Vietnamese, 1920-1988), Scène de village, 1966

Lot 4. Bùi Xuân Phái (Vietnamese, 1920-1988), Scène de village, 1966, signed and dated ‘Phai 1966’, lower right, gouache on paper, 60 x 74 cm. (23 5/8 x 29 1/8 in.). Estimate HK$50,000 – 60,000 (US$6,400 – 7,600)Sold for HK$ 50,625 (€ 5,724) inc. premium. © Bonhams 2001-2019

Property of an important European private collection.

Provenance: Acquired directly from the estate of the artist by the present owner.

Nguyễn Tư Nghiêm (Vietnamese, 1920-1988), La Danse, 1969

Lot 5. Nguyễn Tư Nghiêm (Vietnamese, 1920-1988), La Danse, 1969, signed and dated ’69’, upper left, gouache on paper,37.5 x 42 cm. (14 3/4 x 16 1/2 in.). Estimate HK$30,000 – 50,000 (US$3,800 – 6,400)Sold for HK$ 38,125 (€ 4,310) inc. premium. © Bonhams 2001-2019

Property of an important European private collection.

Provenance: Acquired directly from the estate of the artist by the present owner.

Nguyễn Tư Nghiêm (Vietnamese, 1920-1988), Bird, 1967

Lot 6. Nguyễn Tư Nghiêm (Vietnamese, 1920-1988), Bird, 1967, signed and dated ’67’, lower right on one side; signed and dated ’67’, lower right on other side, oil on panel, double-sided, 28 x 24 cm. (11 x 9 ½ in.). Estimate HK$40,000 – 60,000 (US$5,100 – 6,400)Sold for HK$ 106,875 (€ 12,089) inc. premium. © Bonhams 2001-2019

Property of an important European private collection.

Provenance: Acquired directly from the estate of the artist by the present owner.

Bonhams. RITUAL + CULTURE Fine Southeast Asian Arts, 29 Mar 2019