Connect with us


Vietnam’s 13-year-old Pollock just enjoys bold colors



Xeo Chu has no idea what an art prodigy is. But he knows people are calling him one.

“I do not know what it is, but I think it is a compliment, so I am happy when they call me an art prodigy,” he told VnExpress International. At 13, Chu (birth name: Pho Van An), has more than 200 paintings to his credit over the last nine years.

The world has taken notice of this chubby-cheeked boy’s talent.

In 2018, he had a solo exhibition at Georges Berges Gallery in New York City, where his biggest piece, “Ha Long Bay in Cave,” a 2×4.8 m painting, was sold for $150,000. That painting was specially done for his first exhibition in the U.S.

Georges Berges, owner of the gallery, is convinced that Chu is a young version of Jackson Pollock, American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement in the 1940s and 1950s.

But for Chu, who’d not known about the famous American painter until his trip to the U.S., painting is just a way he expresses his passion for “strong, bold colors.” His work is not affected by any artist or movement, he says.

Chu in his studio. Photo courtesy of Xeo Chu.

Chu in his studio. Photo courtesy of Xeo Chu.

The youngest child in a family with two older brothers, Chu, picked up a brush for the first time when he was four years old. After visiting a painting class that his brothers were attending, the boy scribbled something on a paper, but the art teacher did not pay it much heed.

But the second time, he drew a portrait and the teacher was riveted.

“Looking at the painting, the teacher praised him and started to care about the four-year-old boy,” said Chu’s mother, Nguyen Thi Thu Suong, who owns two art galleries in Saigon.

Just what I see

“I paint the things I see,” Chu said when VnExpress International asked him about his inspiration.

He said he particularly likes natural scenes and flowers. His mother loves flowers and always displays a lot of them at home.

Shapes and the choice of colors come to him with fluid ease. A video demonstrating how he works captures the felicity with which he uses paint bottles to squeeze-spray the shapes of trees and nimbly creates flowers with splotches.

Once, during Tet (Lunar New Year) when houses in the south of Vietnam are decorated with ochna or yellow mai flowers, he decided to make a painting of the tree and its flowers as a birthday gift for his mother.

“I spent the whole afternoon finishing that painting, and now my mom hangs it in our living room,” he said, adding that it is one of his most favorite works.

He also loves abstract paintings. During a trip to Canada, he saw sunlight coming through the trees full of autumn colors. He captured the beautiful moment with just colorful brushstrokes – without the trees or their leaves.

Autumn in Canada, an abstract work by Xeo Chu. Photo courtesy of Xeo Chu and George Berges Gallery.

“Autumn in Canada,” an abstract work by Xeo Chu. Photo courtesy of Xeo Chu and George Berges Gallery.

The young boy is sometimes not satisfied with his work, so he keeps many of his paintings at home and repaints them.

Initially, his mother wanted to keep Chu’s paintings as mementoes, but she was surprised to see that people loved his work.

“I had thought perhaps people praised his paintings because of their relationship with me, so when we had the exhibition in Singapore and got positive comments, I was surprised.”

Artists and industry insiders have offered unrestrained praise for his works and his gift.

“It is too early to say that Chu’s destiny is to be a painter. But it is difficult to deny his natural talent,” said Vietnamese artist Dinh Quan.

Quan added that the purity in the boy’s works has won his heart.

At Chu’s solo exhibition “Big World, Small Eyes” in New York in 2019, gallery owner George Berges maintained that it would be interesting to see where Chu was headed, as Jackson Pollock produced his most famous pieces at the pinnacle of his career, decades after his 12th birthday, but Chu “is producing similar work at the start of his career.”

The painting of a yellow mai tree that Chu made for his mother graces their living room now. Photo courtesy of Xeo Chu.

The painting of a yellow mai tree that Chu made for his mother graces their living room now. Photo courtesy of Xeo Chu.

A helpful bent

The stardom and riches that Chu has earned do not seem to have affected him much.

He is not bothered so much about his works’ price tags.

“I use that money for charity work and helping children of my age because I have my school, my mom, and a lot of support, but other children do not, so I want to help them,” he said.

In December 2020, after his “Flower 2020 – Big World, Little Eyes” exhibition in Saigon, in which 20 of his paintings were sold in hours, he traveled to central province of Quang Tri Province to give donations to students in three mountainous districts.

Suong, his mother, said she has always wanted to help her little son share his happiness with children who face difficulties.

The little artist also has many other hobbies. He likes to read, play with his dog and learn to play table tennis.

“I only paint at the weekend,” Chu said.

However, he loves working in his studio, where he has all essential tools and silence for his creativity, he added.

Asked about what he plans to do this year, Chu said he has no specific plans.

“It will be like other years. I will go to school, try to get good grades to make my mom happy. And I will paint what I see.”



Vietnamese in U.S. rattled by rising hate crimes against Asians



Attacks on Asian-Americans in the U.S. for ‘causing’ the Covid-19 pandemic are worrying the Vietnamese community there.

Walking their dog after dinner has always been a favorite daily activity of Tho Pham and his wife, a Vietnamese couple who live with their 39-year-old son in Garden Grove City, California.

But not in the last few months as the wave of anti-Asian violence and harassment has terrified him.

“I do not dare go out without my children because I am afraid someone will knock me to the ground or stab me to death just because I am Asian,” he laments, adding that the hate crimes have disrupted his daily life.

Many other Vietnamese share his apprehension, especially older people.

Wally Ng, a member of the Guardian Angels, patrols with other members in Chinatown in New York City, New York, U.S., May 16, 2020. Photo by Reuters.

Wally Ng, a member of the Guardian Angels, patrols with other members in Chinatown in New York City, New York, U.S., May 16, 2020. Photo by Reuters.

Violence and hatred directed at Asian Americans, which also includes mugging, have surged across California since the beginning of the Covis-19 pandemic as Asians are blamed for its origin in Wuhan, China.

Videos of an Asian woman being punched in the face on a subway platform and a Thai man being pushed to the ground in San Francisco have sparked fears, and the Vietnamese community is traumatized.

Hoai Nguyen, a housewife in San Jose, home to the largest Vietnamese population in America, says: “It is annoying and scary when you go out and have to keep looking behind your back to see if you are being followed by someone suspicious.”

She has been called “coronavirus” several times while walking and shopping, but she had not expected the discrimination and hatred to turn violent and even murderous.

Last month the Vietnamese community in San Jose was shocked after a 64-year-old woman was robbed in front of Dai Thanh Supermarket during the Lunar New Year holidays.

Nguyen says with a sigh: “I cannot do that (go out) on my own because they may kill me. How weak I am and how cold-hearted those people are.”

Since older people are targeted, no one is comfortable letting their parents or grandparents go out alone though the first month of the lunar new year is typically filled with activities like meeting relatives and going to pagodas.

This year most had a subdued New Year also because of the pandemic.

Hong Nguyen, who is always accompanied by her children on the streets in Oakland these days, says: “It should be a time for celebration, we should meet our families and friends instead of being targeted or attacked.”


The potential threats have brought the Vietnamese diaspora together.

On Facebook groups, they post videos of Asians being assaulted or robbed to warn others about the growing threat in places like California and New York, home to many Vietnamese-Americans.

“Please help if you see anyone being verbally or physically attacked,” one person wrote in a group for people living in West Hills, California.

Some people give a helping hand to elders in their Vietnamese and Asian communities. In Oakland, for instance, there have been community initiatives including patrols by volunteers who escort seniors around the city.

“From our Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese elders to our youth, our Asian-American communities are traumatized, afraid and outraged during a time when we are also experiencing disproportionate impacts of the pandemic,” according to a joint agreement by Asian-American organizations in the Bay Area said, calling for non-police safety measures like volunteer neighborhood patrols.

Hong Nguyen’s sons and daughter, who are in their 20s, have joined many other Asians to protect elders in public places.

“Someone threw rocks at my sister’s house twice last week, and so five of us stand in front of her house in the evenings to see if those thugs come around again,” Hong Nguyen says, adding solidarity is their recourse now.

A 91-year-old Asian man is shoved to the ground from behind by a suspect in Chinatown in Oakland, California, January 31, 2021. Photo courtesy of  Reutters.

A 91-year-old Asian man is shoved to the ground from behind by a suspect in Chinatown in Oakland, California, January 31, 2021. Photo courtesy of Reutters.

Some people have taken a further step, gun ownership.

“I decided to buy a handgun this spring after seeing a series of mugging of Asians,” Nguyen Duc Phuc, 45, says. Owning a gun gives him and his wife peace of mind amid the senseless violence, he says.

“When I was in line waiting to buy the gun, two white guys called me ‘chin*’ and made fun of me because I wore a mask.”

The New York Times quoted David Liu, owner of Arcadia Firearm and Safety in the predominantly Asian city of Arcadia in California, as saying there is an uptick in Asian-Americans buying firearms though admittedly interest has been skyrocketing among “basically everybody.”

In a survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation last year gun retailers estimated there was a nearly 43 percent increase in sales to Asian customers in the first half of 2020, the Times added.

But people like Pham, Phuc and Nguyen know that violence is never the correct response to violence.

On February 26 senior officials of the U.S. Justice Department claimed that the recent surge in violence and hate incidents against Asian-Americans is unacceptable, and promised to investigate those cases and other hate crimes.

These “horrific attacks on Asian-Americans across the country” have “no place in our society,” Deputy Attorney General John Carlin said while speaking about domestic terrorism, adding that the Justice Department is “committed to putting a stop to it.”

Agents and prosecutors at the department would “look at recent footage from New York and California to see those horrific attacks directed at Asian Americans, to realize how dire the threats are,” he said.

But in the meantime, Pham knows he needs his children with him if he wants to venture outside home.

“I just want to feel safe and not fear for my life when going out without disturbing my children.”


Continue Reading


Diageo Vietnam donates VND3 billion to vaccination program



Jos Duursema, Chief Operating Officer of Diageo Vietnam Limited, has donated VND3 billion to the fundraising appeal “Making COVID-19 Vaccine Contributions with Tuoi Tre” – PHOTO: DIAGEO VIETNAM

Diageo Vietnam Limited (DVL) has donated VND3 billion to a vaccination program initiated by Tuoi Tre newspaper, making it one of the first businesses in the country to join hands with the media to help up to 10,000 frontline workers get vaccinated for free this year.

Jos Duursema, Chief Operating Officer of Diageo Vietnam, said as a British business operating in Vietnam, the company was proud to accompany and support the local communities in every possible way to protect their well-being and promote sustainable development for the country.

“Through partnerships with trusted partners, Diageo Vietnam hopes to secure more opportunities to access effective prevention and treatment for Covid-19, hence empowering Vietnamese people with the freedom to live a healthy and successful life,” Duursema said.

He said the sense of values and purposes guides Diageo’s business operations and social activities on a global scale.

Last June, Diageo Vietnam partnered with the Central Committee of Vietnam Fatherland Front to present the Ministry of Health with hand sanitizer bottles worth VND670 million, alongside its campaign “Clean Serve by Diageo” which provided sanitizing kits and guidelines for more than 315 bars and clubs across the country.


Continue Reading


A shift to a hub-and-spoke model



Buildings in HCMC – PHOTO: VIET DUNG

The downtown office will still play a critical role in future corporate real estate strategy. And social interaction drives productivity in specific areas of business and is central to corporate culture.

There is a conscious shift of when, how and where the office is used. This is a legacy from the global pandemic that will take hold in corporate real estate strategy in Vietnam.

Office portfolios may begin to look similar to the model used by logistics markets across the globe for many years: the hub-and-spoke.

Downtown headquarters’, the “hubs” may become smaller, but remain critical for key meetings, huddles, pitches and interactions. And also a key driver for talent recruitment.

The “spokes” are likely to consist of buildings in fringe areas or decentralised locations.

Naturally, they will be flexible and closer to the workforce, and most likely, with a more casual and cost-conscious approach.

And work-from-home may be ditched in favour of work- from- anywhere.

Besides, touchpoints around or out of the city may form part of a formal corporate real estate strategy as co-working spaces or informal, pre-approved locations such as shopping malls and coffee shops become places for employees to meet.

The adoption of the hub-and-spoke model, indeed, will depend on the corporate real estate strategies of multinational companies.

It is likely to be encouraged by large firms evaluating space in Vietnam (and the wider APAC region) as it continues to grow faster than other continents in terms of requirements for desk spaces.

As the e-commerce and FMCG sectors drive the fastest expansion in Vietnam, the hub-and-spoke would seem like a model that could be quickly and effectively replicated as distribution and warehousing requirements swell.

And one trend that has surfaced as a result of the pandemic is that logistics and industrial real estate have become a core asset to many investors.

For occupiers, warehousing and logistics real estate needs can be fast-moving yet generally reliable in availability and attainable as they race through the challenges of Covid-19. 

However, we should deliberate on the apparently straightforward strategy used by logistics.

Perhaps further introspection may be beneficial rather than jumping into a seemingly successful 50-year old model.

Is a copy-paste solution really advisable in our unique, opaque and fast-moving market?

So what would a hypothetical hub-and-spoke model look like? Therein lies the first hurdle: Vietnam’s economic powerhouses of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are 1,500kms of often disparate, bumpy highways.

With no rail freight available, a central “big box” simply doesn’t work. 

Then looking at hubs in each of the core cities, three distinct central business districts have emerged due to population shifts and 3% urbanisation growth.

Rapid changes to infrastructure have resulted in a tug-of-war effect that moves the centre of gravity as well as their sub-market geographies and demographics.

Taking Ho Chi Minh City as an example, it is rather challenging to predict the future of a city with an area approaching 700,000 square kilometres and growing rapidly in all directions.

While infrastructure planning is good, implementation of infrastructure is harder to forecast and bets are unlikely going to be made on whether or when a bridge or overpass is completed.

What initially looked like shooting fish in a barrel has become three barrels, all moving and changing size.

We are therefore left to consider how the hubs will interact with the spokes, which may end up being a wider assortment of basic cross-docks or depots in better locations, but in Vietnam, these are often poor or basic facilities.

This highlights another nuance of the local market: we will unlikely see Brownfield solutions to inner-city distribution, and we are a long way from drone delivery in Vietnam.

Moreover, land in Vietnam will not be re-zoned for logistics or industrial purposes.

While the quality of older buildings in great locations may not be the ideal scenario for central business district strategists, the CEO and fulfilment directors will not mind as long as their motorbikes can get out to their customers on time.

Again, motorbikes are less widely used in the old-school western hub-and-spoke model.  

Traditional central business district portfolio managers may be shuddering at the thought of managing a multi-building portfolio when some of those buildings aren’t a poster child for real estate.

However, the unique features of Vietnam (geography, congested traffic, motorbike delivery, flooding, power disruption, developing infrastructure, and tolls) are probably a greater risk to the supply chain than acquiring moderately priced warehousing instead of a shiny, premium-priced “big box”.

For one-hub organizations such as IT networks, any operational problems of any spokes or even worse, the hub, lead to immediate bottlenecks on performance.

In Vietnam, where there are more potential risks to the chain than other nations, the mesh of point-to-point and hub-spoke networks of interacting facilities might be the best bet for continuity of service.

The accelerators in this scenario might be the growth of ghost-kitchens or better adoption of just-in-time inventory management across the logistics functions of any business.

Perhaps too, if e-commerce and retail were to truly converge, it might drive a mid-mile/last-mile demand for space which could further add argument for a hub-spoke/point-to-point hybrid portfolio.

In this case, maybe we do not need to dismantle the hub-and-spoke but find a localised solution, which may be adding more, smaller wheels.

(*) Alex Crane is Managing Director of Cushman & Wakefield Vietnam


Continue Reading