BackArts & Culture » Music & Art » Sold for $3.1m, Mai Trung Thứ Portrait Becomes Highest-Valued Vietnamese Artwork

Artworks by Vietnamese artists have been sold at record-breaking amounts in recent years.

On April 19, Mai Trung Thứ’s artwork 'Portrait de Mademoiselle Phuong' sold for US$3.1 million, the highest price ever for a Vietnamese artwork, reports Tuoi Tre. The amount broke the previous record that Lê Phổ's 'Nue' set in 2019 at US$1.4 million.

'Portrait de Mademoiselle Phuong' appeared in the auction "Beyond Legends: Modern Art Evening Sale" by Sotheby's Hong Kong. Tuoi Tre reports that even though the starting price was considerably low (US$500,000), within two minutes, the price got pushed up to US$1.9 million. After five minutes, and with only two bidders left, the bid reached US$2.5 million, and then ended at US$2.573 million. Including tax, the final price for the piece is US$3.1 million.

According to Sotheby's Hong Kong, 'Portrait de Mademoiselle Phuong' is a rare oil piece by Mai Trung Thứ who was more well-known for his silk paintings. The work illustrated his global reach, as it was his first piece displayed and sold at the Exposition Coloniale Internationale de Paris in 1931. Phuong, the subject of the painting, is allegedly Mai Trung Thứ’s love interest, a noble young lady in Hanoi. The painting was featured in the Oscar-nominated and award-winning film The Scent of Green Papaya by Trần Anh Hùng.

Speaking to Dan Tri, Nguyễn Minh, an art collector, expressed a feeling of “shock” at the US$3.1 million price for the piece. Despite speculation by media outlets and researchers that the buyer is a Vietnamese collector, Minh believes the buyer might have been a Chinese investor.

Born in 1906, Mai Trung Thứ was part of the first-ever graduating class of the École des Beaux-Arts de l'Indochine in Hanoi. Along with his contemporaries Lê Phố, Lê Thị Lựu and Vũ Cao Đàm, he was widely regarded as one of the most important figures of Vietnamese art of the 20th century.

[Top images via Sotheby's and Luxuo]

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