Danh Vo


Danh Vo


In the Rotunda.

For “Before the Storm”, Danh Vo was asked to provide a new installation for the emblematic space of the Rotunda at the Bourse de Commerce. Danh Vo’s Tropeaolum takes root in this greenhouse of metal, concrete, and stone to create a shifting territory where narratives become intertwined. The trunks of oak trees, victims of time and storms, which were selected together with the French National Forest Department, are held up by wooden structures used in construction. Pieces of wood from sustainable forests owned by Craig McNamara belonging to the artist also form part of this installation. Craig is none other than the son of Robert McNamara, former US Secretary of Defence and architect of the Vietnam War, indirectly responsible for the exile of the artist’s family, who fled the consequences of the war to make a new home for themselves in Denmark. The work is also rooted in the life that Danh Vo has lived since 2017 on his studio and farm in Güldenhof, near Berlin.

The artist was transformed by this new relationship to “nature”, to this garden and to the earth. Flowers, mushrooms, moss, trees, and the interactions between plants have become very prominent  elements in his work.

Tropeaolum suggests a very particular sense of time, in which nothing truly dies, and the possibility of survival and evolution remains. Other works by the artist from the collection find refuge in this dark garden, where they converse with old wooden sculptures that the artist has collected. Ghosts of history and vestiges of culture intermingle to create a renaissance of plants. In a careful and close relationship to the Rotunda and under the marouflage canvas adorning the base of its cupola, this work responds to the colonial, expansionist world view depicted by the canvas’ nineteenth century painters. Danh Vo’s arrangement of objects and artifacts explores their symbolic and emotional charge, and their power of evocation and remediation.

Danh Vo’s practice consists of a recourse to fragments, samples, gaps, relics, and assemblage.

It draws its inspiration from a collection of objects and images that the artist reactivates with a gesture or a new situation. By combining his personal history and narratives with broader geopolitical, social, and historical discourses, he explores the ways in which identity, heritage, and values are constructed and transmitted. For this Vietnamese- Danish artist, the child of boat people who emigrated to Scandinavia, history concerns the present and shapes the future. “Not ‘starting within the limits of the frame’, like museum or exhibition art, an ‘art that feels like art’, going above and below and through the frame, articulating everything that escapes this—that’s what an exhibition can be”, wrote Patricia Falguières, in 2015 on the occasion of the exhibition that Danh Vo conceived for the Punta della Dogana in Venice (Slip of the Tongue).

Curator: Caroline Bourgeois