Danh Vo

Installation view of "We The People", 2010-2013, at National Gallery of Denmark in 2013.

Danh Vō (born 1975)[1] is a Vietnamese-born Danish performance art inspired conceptual artist.[2] He lives and works in Berlin, Germany.[3]

Early life and education

Danh Vō (pronounced yon voh)[4] was born in Bà Rịa.[5] After the Communists' victory and the fall of Saigon, the Vo family and 20,000 other South Vietnamese were brought in 1975 to the island of Phú Quốc.[6] When he was 4 years old, his family fled South Vietnam in a homemade boat and was rescued at sea by a freighter belonging to the Danish Maersk shipping company.[7] The family members settled in Denmark, and their assimilation into European culture and the events that led up to their flight from Vietnam are reflected in Vō's art, which juxtaposes the historical and the personal.[8] When Danh Vo and his family were registered by the Danish authorities, the family name Vo was placed last. His middle name,Trung, was recorded as his first name.

Vō has been based in Berlin since 2005, after finishing school at Städelschule in Frankfurt, where he went after quitting painting at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen.[9] He had residencies at the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles (2006)[3] and at Kadist Art Foundation in Paris (2009).[10]


Vo's installations, which are composed of documents, photos and appropriations of works of other artists, often address the issues of identity and belonging.[6]

During his travels, Vō discovered a farewell letter written to his father by a French missionary working in Asia on the eve of his execution, one of many killings that precipitated the French colonization of Vietnam in the mid-19th century. He asked his own father, Phung Vo, a Roman Catholic who ran small food businesses for 30 years in Denmark, to rewrite the French letter in his exceptional penmanship, send an original transcription of the letter to anyone requesting it for 100 euros and to archive all the exchanges. More than 200 of the transcriptions have spread virally to individuals and institutions around the world.[9]

The conceptual work Vo Rosasco Rasmussen (2002–) involves the artist's marriage to and immediate divorce from a growing list of important people in his life;[11] after each marriage, Vō retains the last name of his former spouse. His official name is now Trung Ky Danh Vo Rosaco Rasmussen.[12] Oma Totem (2009), a stacked sculpture of his grandmother's welcome gifts from a relief program on her arrival in Germany in the 1980s, displays her television set, washing machine, and refrigerator (adorned with her own crucifix), among other items.[11]

For 2.02.1861 (2009–), the artist asked his father Phung Vo to transcribe the last communication from the French Catholic Saint Théophane Vénard to his own father before he was decapitated in 1861 in Vo's native Vietnam; multiple copies of the transcribed letter exist, the total number will remain undefined until Phung Vo's death.[13] In Autoerotic Asphyxiation (2010), Vō presents documentary pictures of young Asian men taken by Joseph Carrier, an American anthropologist and counterinsurgency specialist who worked in Vietnam for the RAND Corporation from 1962 to 1973. While in Vietnam, Carrier privately documented the casual interactions he observed, intimate without necessarily being homoerotic, between local men; he produced a substantial photographic archive, which he subsequently bequeathed to Danh Vō.[14]

For his project We the People, created between 2010 and 2012, Vo enlisted a Shanghai fabricator to recast a life-size Statue of Liberty from 30 tons of copper sheets the width of just two pennies.[15] Rather than assemble the approximately 300 sections,[4] the artist shipped the giant elements to some 15 sites around the world after they roll off the production line in China.[9] In 2014 work is currently being shown in New York City with its assembly of parts shared between City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Park in the borough of Brooklyn.[16] In May of the aforementioned year a small part of "We the People's" replicas of the original Statue of Liberty's chain links were stolen from City Hall Park.[17]

For a 2013 show at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Vo conceived a homage to the artist Martin Wong. The installation consists of nearly 4,000 frequently small artworks, artifacts and tchotchkes that once belonged to Wong, crowded into a specially designed gallery lined with laminated plywood shelves. The show's title—I am you and you are too—appeared on Wong's business cards and stamps.[4]

Another 2013 show at New York's Marian Goodman Gallery focused on the personal effects of the late U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the architect of the Vietnam War. Looking to open up a dialogue about shared and private histories, Vō displayed or modified 14 items acquired at a Sotheby's auction—including the pen used to the sign the Gulf of Tonkin memo and a 1944 photograph by Ansel Adams.[18]


Vō won the 2012 Hugo Boss Prize,[19] the BlauOrange Kunstpreis of Berlin's Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken in 2007, and was a nominee for the Preis der Nationalgalerie für junge Kunst in 2009.[20]


Vō had his first solo exhibition in 2005, at the Galerie Klosterfelde in Berlin.[21]

He participated in the Venice Biennale in 2013.[20] His work has been exhibited at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis;[22] the Art Institute of Chicago;[2] the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; and the Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, the Kunsthalle Mainz, Germany,[23] among other institutions. In 2014 he shared an exhibition with Carol Rama at the Nottingham Contemporary. On November 14, 2014, his exhibition "الحجارة وادي" (Wād al-ḥaŷara) opened at Museo Jumex in Mexico City.

Art market

Today, Vō is represented by the Marian Goodman Gallery in New York City; Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; and Galerie Buchholz, Cologne. Until 2015, he also worked with Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie, Berlin.[24]

2015 law suit

In 2014, Dutch collector and entrepreneur Bert Kreuk filed a suit against Vō, claiming that the artist agreed in January 2013 to produce one or more new works for Kreuk’s exhibition, Transforming the Known, at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, and that the work would be acquired by the collector after the show. Before the exhibition opened in June 2013, Vō sent an existing work, Fiat Veritas (2013), a cardboard box marked with gold leaf. However, Kreuk said the agreement had been for Vō to create a new work for his collection, expressing a preference for the artist’s large-scale Budweiser and American Flag series. In June 2015, a Rotterdam court upheld Kreuk’s claim and ordered the artist to create a new artwork for the collector within a year.[25] In July 2015, Vō proposed to answer this ruling by the court by producing a giant mural with the text "SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS, YOU FAGGOT".[26]


  1. "Danh Vo - Biography". Artfacts.net. 2013-08-18. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
  2. 1 2 "Danh Vo: We The People (detail), 2010–2013". The Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
  3. 1 2 David Ng (November 1, 2012), Danh Vo wins 2012 Hugo Boss Prize from Guggenheim Foundation Los Angeles Times.
  4. 1 2 3 Roberta Smith (March 14, 2013), Awash in a Cultural Deluge New York Times.
  5. The Hugo Boss Prize 2012: Danh Vo Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
  6. 1 2 Daniel Völzke (December 11, 2009), Danh Vo: In Memory of Forgetting DB ArtMag.
  7. Danh Vo: Uterus, September 23 – December 16, 2012 Renaissance Society, Chicago.
  8. Carol Vogel (November 1, 2012), Native of Vietnam Wins Hugo Boss Prize New York Times.
  9. 1 2 3 Hilarie M. Sheets (September 20, 2012), Lady Liberty, Inspiring Even in Pieces New York Times.
  10. Residencies: Danh Vo Kadist Art Foundation, Paris.
  11. 1 2 Danh Vo Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
  12. Danh Vo: Hip Hip Hurra, 20 November 2010 - 20 March 2011 Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.
  13. Danh Vo, 2.2.1861, (2009–) Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
  14. Holland Cotter (November 5, 2010), Danh Vo: Autoerotic Asphyxiation New York Times.
  15. Martha Schwendener (August 7, 2014), Two Parks, One Statue, Lots of Pieces Lying Around New York Times.
  16. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304536104579559841745802998
  17. http://www.phaidon.com/agenda/art/articles/2014/may/20/danh-vo-artwork-stolen-in-new-york/
  18. Michael Slenske (March 2013), Don't Miss: Danh Vo at the Guggenheim and Marian Goodman W.
  19. "Artist Danh Vo Wins Hugo Boss Prize 2012". Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. 2012-11-01. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
  20. 1 2 Danh Vo Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris.
  21. Danh Vo, November 19 - December 23, 2005 Galerie Klosterfelde, Berlin.
  22. Ryan, Bartholomew (2012-01-04). "Tombstone for Phùng Vo — Magazine — Walker Art Center". Walkerart.org. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
  23. Reich ohne Mitte, Thomas Schuette und Danh Vo, August 5 - October 6, 2013 Kunsthalle Mainz.
  24. Anny Shaw (August 14, 2015), Danh Vo and Isabella Bortolozzi part ways as appeal in Bert Kreuk case is lodged The Art Newspaper.
  25. Anny Shaw (June 25, 2015), Danh Vo to appeal court order to make ‘large and impressive’ new work for collector The Art Newspaper.
  26. Joris Zwetsloot (July 17, 2015), 'Indrukwekkend' kunstwerk wekt ergernis opdrachtgever De Volkskrant

External links

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