Traditional art now undergoing digital business transformation

January 19, 2022 | 10:01
Online art galleries have boomed in recent times, with skyrocketing transactions taking place. Vu Huy Thong, art director of IndochineArt – Vietnam’s first online gallery – talked to VIR’s Do Huong about the movements of Vietnam’s art market over the past two years.

What are the challenges facing IndochineArt to provide artworks and sculptures to major resorts, and how do you deal with a lack of international customers over the past two years?

Traditional art now undergoing digital business transformation
Vu Huy Thong, art director of IndochineArt – Vietnam’s first online gallery

The most challenging time for Indochine Art was in the second half of 2020, when most of the hospitality projects were frozen. Despite a lack of earnings, the company still kept track of its projects to fulfil the contracts. At that time, IndochineArt suffered enormous pressure from strained cash flows and late payments as well as additional expenses to conduct new contracts and maintain business.

As of present, all of the projects have returned to their normal cycle. However, the impact is still lingering so we need more time to recover from the crisis.

Interestingly, we still manage to sell to international markets like the US, Germany, and Hong Kong during the pandemic. International customers who are familiar with online art transactions don’t leave the Vietnamese market over this time.

However, the rising shipping costs have affected their decisions. In particular, the shipping costs for large-sized lacquer paintings is very high now, which is almost equal to the price of paintings. Thus, they decided to buy the paintings at another time.

Do you consider the expenses to run an online gallery as the biggest challenge?

We have calculated the maintenance budget since the establishment of the online platform. IndochineArt identified that it would be a huge expense and a very long journey. However, we have formulated a specific strategy for each year. Thus, IndochineArt has yet to make many advertisements in the market.

But we have heavily invested in building the depth of our platform. As a result, we have built prestige and quality expertise in the field. IndochineArt is highly appreciated by professionals and the artist community as well as international partners. With this approach, we have made effective use of our budget. As a result, we can overcome unexpected difficulties.

We are committed to our direction and strategy by making in-depth investments, developing human resources, and cutting unnecessary costs. All costs need to be taken into account to make efficient use. The company also continues efforts to maintain our reputation in the market while accumulating the necessary resources for expansion once the opportunity arises.

Can you tell us more about the successful organisation of a recent artwork auction?

On behalf of artists, IndochineArt organised a programme titled “Artwork Auction - Overcoming the COVID-19 Pandemic” to support frontline healthcare workers. This was a really meaningful activity which is not in our annual marketing plan.

The company paid all expenses for auction activities, which is a small contribution to the charity event. We highly appreciate as well as actively support humane activities. We are willing to become the representative of Vietnamese artists as well as accompany Vietnam’s art sector.

Traditional art now undergoing digital business transformation
Art galleries are commonly found in the centre of Hanoi, but now they are branching out online

How do you see the pandemic boosting the digital transformation of online art transactions at IndochineArt, as well as the prospects of potential partnerships?

After four years of operation, we see that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and e-commerce activities. This is also true for the art sector, where people prefer to see and touch artworks in person.

This has created additional demand for our platform. In particular, customers are more open to buying art via online platforms as they have been familiar with e-commerce channels. Clearly, the pandemic helps increase the customers’ trust towards online shopping. They are now looking for trusted marketplaces to make purchases.

Online shopping not only brings convenience to customers but also helps reduce efforts and expenses for businesses. This is a golden opportunity for businesses to increase sales.

Online art transactions in the local market have doubled in volume over the past two years despite some stagnation caused by the pandemic. In the second half of 2021, the number of online orders has doubled compared with pre-pandemic. When we made a pilot marketing campaign on Facebook, our engagement increased by 200 per cent. It seems the market is recovering.

Some organisations have expressed an interest in forming a partnership with us and investing in our platform. When IndochineArt first opened its doors in 2019, we were approached by a South Korean gallery interested in forming a collaboration. We refused this opportunity at the time because we were focused on pursuing our own vision and mission to build IndochineArt.

Today, IndochineArt is now taking shape, and we are willing to welcome new investors who have the capability to elevate Vietnamese arts to a high level and establish trust in the international market.

By Do Huong

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