Lot 29
  • 29

Danh Vo

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  • Danh Vo
  • Alphabet (B)
  • goldleaf on unfolded cardboard box
  • framed: 96 by 219cm.; 37 3/4 by 86 1/4 in.
  • Executed in 2011.

Catalogue Note

When Danh Vo was only four years old his family attempted to escape the chaos that followed the war in Vietnam, hoping to reach the United States, the land of dreams, values, and consumer goods, by boat. This was not meant to be. He and his family members were rescued at sea by a Danish freighter and so settled in Denmark, where their assimilation into European culture began. Danh Vo’s art represents an intersection between historical and personal aspects, as much as a dialogue between the ideal and reality. Playing with the feeling of being culturally different, the life of a migrant, and the dream of a promised land, his art is a reflection of the events that led up to the flight from Vietnam, and functions as a reconciliation of the historical and the personal.

In Southeast Asia symbolically charged, consecrated places and objects are marked with gold leaf. Danh Vo collects cardboard boxes from Vietnam, the land of his cultural origins. Used and battered, they represent their own reality. Applying gold leaf to the surface consecrates the boxes, reconciles the harsh reality with the ideal, and juxtaposes ancient traditions with today’s artistic ideals. The letters are from the Bowditch alphabet, the standard in the maritime world since 1802, which helped to streamline and boost trade between the West and Asia, thus paving the way for colonisation.