Danh Vō, ‘Alphabet (Z)’, 2011, Phillips

Property of an Important European Collector

From the Catalogue:
“I see myself, like any other person, as a container that has inherited these infinite traces of history without inheriting any direction.” - Danh Vo

Danh Vo is an artist whose works forge links between the multifarious strands of his cultural identity—one that finds its roots in Vietnam but which developed in Denmark. His works investigate the nuanced spaces created in cultural displacement and migration, and explore the broader implications of the consequences of global importation and exportation of both goods and ideas: particularly fitting and symptomatic of the 21st Century.

Illustrated by Alphabet (Z) are Vo’s principal ideas of coexistence or perhaps convergence—where discarded Vietnamese cardboard boxes are lined with opulent gold leaf, and ironically given the same treatment as sanctified objects in Southeast Asia. In so doing, the artist’s Alphabet (Z) interweaves reality with ideality, seamlessly contextualising revered traditions with modern-day sensibilities and preoccupations. This idea of concomitance of realities/ idealities is furthered by the letter Z. Dominating the foreground, it is extrapolated from the Bowditch alphabet as standardised in the maritime community in the early 19th century. This global language facilitated the centralisation of communication between the West and the East, supporting international trade and ultimately heralding colonisation.

Vo’s oeuvre is one that ultimately amalgamates the personal, the cultural, and the historical: “I don’t really believe in my own story, not as a singular thing anyway. It weaves in and out of other people’s private stories of local history and geopolitical history. I see myself, like any other person, as a container that has inherited these infinite traces of history without inheriting any direction. I try to compensate for this, I’m trying to make sense out of it and give it a direction for myself.” (Danh Vo, quoted in Francesca Pagliuca, “No Way Out: An Interview with Danh Vo,” Mousse Magazine, February 2009, online)
Courtesy of Phillips

Galerie Buchholz, Berlin
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About Danh Vō

Danh Vō’s conceptual works explore themes of appropriation and fragmentation, incorporating his experience as a Vietnamese-born Danish citizen and consistently using his own life as material. In a commentary on the practice of changing and rearranging immigrants’ names on arrival in their new home countries, Võ married and divorced several people in rapid succession in order to add their surnames to his own. He titled the work Vo Rosasco Rasmussen (2002-) after two of his spouses. Vō’s We the People (2011) is a scrupulous replica of fragments of the Statue of Liberty for which the artist took pains to ensure the same copper hammering technique. The resulting hollow pieces were exhibited spread out on the floor of a gallery space, highlighting the unexpected fragility of the original statue, visible in the thinness of its material. Vō won the Hugo Boss Prize in 2012.

Vietnamese and Danish, b. 1975, Ba Ria, Vietnam, based in Berlin, Germany