Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City is one of two major art museums in Vietnam. With ancient structure, the museum atracts thousands of tourists every year.
Over the course of over three centuries, Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City has evolved into a prominent hub for various aspects of Vietnamese life, including politics, economics, culture, education, and tourism. Despite undergoing significant transformations, the city has managed to retain its long-held customs and distinctive architectural landmarks.
The history of the Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City can be classified into several key phases:
Origins and Construction (1929-1934):
The Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City‘s history begins with the construction of the building in 1929, which was designed by the French architect Mr. Rivera. Initially, this building was a family mansion owned by a wealthy Chinese-born businessman named Hua Bon Hoa. The architectural design of the building is a blend of Asian and European influences. During this period, it served as a private residence and was associated with the colonial era in South Vietnam.
Historical Transformations (1945-1975):
The ownership and use of the mansion underwent significant changes in response to historical events. These included the August Revolution in 1945, the partition of North and South Vietnam in 1954, and the collapse of the Republic of Vietnam in 1975. The mansion remained a witness to these transformative moments in history.
Conversion to Fine Arts Museum (1987-1992):
In 1987, one year after the Đổi Mới (Renovation) policy was initiated, the building was converted into the Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City by the City People’s Committee. However, it took until 1992 to fully operate as a museum due to the initial lack of artifacts. This marked a significant shift in the building’s purpose, transitioning from a private residence to a cultural institution dedicated to fine arts.
Development and Contemporary Art (1992-present):
Since its official opening, the museum has become a significant cultural hub in Ho Chi Minh City. It houses an extensive collection of sculptures, paintings, and artifacts that have played a role in the development of fine arts in the city. Additionally, the museum has also served as a platform for contemporary art. Mrs. Tran Thi Huynh Nga, the wife of a famous artist, transformed a room in the museum into a contemporary art center, hosting various workshops, exhibitions, and performance events. This reflects the museum’s adaptability and its role in promoting modern artistic expression.
Attractions of the museum
The Architecture Outside
The outside structure of the Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh Citycan be classified as follows:
The museum’s three-storeyed construction is built in the style of Art-deco architecture, which is characterized by its combination of quintessential elements from both Asian and European fine arts traditions. This fusion of styles gives the museum’s exterior a unique and harmonious appearance.
Color and Facade:
The main building of the museum is prominently yellow and features arched window pivots. It stands out in contrast to the green space surrounding it, creating a visually striking façade. Because of the façade here, many couples join Ho Chi Minh city tour to capture their wedding photos.
The main entrance is defined by an archway with two short staircases leading to the main door. This entrance is a key focal point of the building’s exterior.
In the center of the front courtyard, there is a small fountain with two sculptures – a typical thing on many places in Vietnam tours on both sides. These sculptures likely contribute to the artistic and decorative aspect of the exterior.
The overall structure is U-shaped, and at the rear of the main building, there is a small courtyard that receives ample sunlight. This layout not only adds to the aesthetics but also provides functional spaces for visitors.
Notably, the museum was one of the first constructions in Saigon to incorporate elevators into its design. These elevators were creatively decorated to resemble ancient Chinese palanquins, showcasing a blend of functionality and artistic expression.
The red-tiled rooftop of the museum follows a Yin and Yang style, which is a reference to Chinese philosophy and symbolism. If you want to see more designs about this style, come to local houses in Mekong delta tours. This design element adds cultural richness to the building’s exterior.
The windows of the museum are fitted with colorful glass, showcasing the typical style of European art. These windows likely contribute to the overall aesthetic and may provide interesting interior lighting effects. This is also a place that people usually capture glamorous pictures
The Structure Inside
The inside structure of the Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City can be classified and explained as follows:
Basement (Office Works):
The basement serves as a space for office-related functions. This is likely where administrative and managerial tasks associated with the museum are carried out. It may include offices for museum staff, storage areas, and utility rooms.
First Floor (Galleries and Exhibition Activities):
The first floor is primarily dedicated to galleries and exhibition activities. This is where various art exhibitions, displays, and trade-related events are held. The main entrance path on this floor is a prominent feature, featuring a high lobby, large pillars, and stairs on both sides. The main door is designed in an arch shape and features stylized steel characters “H.B.H,” representing the abbreviation of Mr. Hua Bon Hoa’s name, a nod to the building’s history.
Second Floor (Fine Arts Paintings):
The second floor houses fine arts paintings. This likely includes a collection of paintings from various artists, showcasing the development and diversity of fine arts in the region.
Third Floor (Antique Sculptures and Traditional Handicrafts):
The third floor is dedicated to antique sculptures and traditional handicrafts from the ancient residents of South Vietnam. This section provides a historical and cultural perspective on the region’s artistic heritage.
The main entrance path on the first floor is a highlight of the museum’s architecture. It includes a grand lobby area with large pillars and stairs, creating an impressive entryway for visitors. The arch-shaped main door features stylized steel characters, adding a unique touch to the entrance. Additionally, at the back of the museum, there is a stele that is engraved with the names of the building’s owners, most of whom were from Mr. Hua Bon Hoa’s family, adding historical context to the building.
Corridors and Balconies:
Inside the museum, long corridors connect different gallery rooms. These corridors are designed to be well-lit and airy, with green wooden doors leading to small balconies in front of each room. The balconies have simple vertical grid pivots, allowing for natural light and ventilation. This design creates a shimmering and inviting atmosphere within the museum’s interior, enhancing the overall visitor experience.
How to get
97A Pho Duc Chinh Street, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Way to the museum
It is only nine kilometers from Tan Son Nhat Airport, so you can get to the museum by taxi or motorbike.
Moreover, you can also get there on a bus with a very pocket-friendly price. The buses that will take you to Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City are buses number 03, 20, 65 and 93.
Tips for visiting
Please refrain from touching the displayed artworks as they are equipped with anti-theft sensors. Whether intentional or accidental contact occurs, it will trigger an alarm, and the security guard may hold you responsible.
If you wish to use a professional camera for photography within the museum, a fee of 300,000 VND is applicable. However, there is no charge for using a mobile phone camera.
For your convenience, there is a designated wardrobe area located to the right of the main entrance where you can securely store your bags and belongings. This eliminates the need to carry heavy luggage during your visit.
Kindly maintain a quiet atmosphere while inside the museum. Everyone appreciates a tranquil environment to fully immerse themselves in the artworks.
Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City is a site with ancient impressive structure that appeals numerous foreign visitors. Now, it becomes a symbol of museum in Ho Chi Minh city.
Suggestion: Travelers should add Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City and Cu Chi Tunnels tour to make different experience.