Zoe Butt Moves to the Factory
By Brady Ng
Sàn Art, the nonprofit contemporary art organization in Ho Chi Minh City, announced on September 12 that its executive director and curator Zoe Butt will step down in December. Butt’s departure comes after Sàn Art temporarily terminated its residency program after warnings from the Vietnamese government in February. The program, called Sàn Art Laboratory, came under the scrutiny of the country’s Cultural Police last October, and an exhibition planned for the following month featuring work by residency artists Nguyen Thuy Tien, Vo Tran and Ratu Rizkitasari Saraswati was canceled. Government officials maintain Sàn Art does not hold a license to host foreigners at their events. In February, Zoe Butt told ArtAsiaPacific that Sàn Art has never been required to obtain a license for a local artist talk.
Butt will continue to work in Vietnam and will assume her new role as artistic director at the Factory Contemporary Arts Centre (FCAC) in February 2017. FCAC opened its doors to the public in March, and is the newest art space in Ho Chi Minh City, located in the prime location of District 2. Aside from housing the city’s largest exhibition space, the center also hosts an educational arts library and a co-working space. The founder of the FCAC, Ti-a Thuy Nguyen, has plans to launch a second center in Hanoi.
In a recent email exchange, Butt told ArtAsiaPacific that FCAC has no set plans for an artist-in-residency program, but maintains "there are many possibilities." She adds, "As artistic director of The Factory [FCAC], I hope to offer programs that better connect, develop and network the local collector scene; while are also really demonstrating what it means to produce, design, collaborate and facilitate the interdisciplinary education of art through exhibition making. These are two areas I feel I was unable to realize at Sàn Art due to limitations of space, legal status and funds."
So far, the FCAC has hosted two exhibitions. “TechNoPhobe” kicked off the exhibition programming in March with performances by six local and expat artists that employed a digital sound system, smartphones, video holograms and 3D printers. The second show that opened in June, “Dislocate,” was a solo presentation of acclaimed local artist Bui Cong Khanh that was curated by Butt. It was part of a broader artistic undertaking initiated and organized by Sàn Art called “Conscious Realities” (2013–16), in partnership with the Prince Claus Fund.
Aside from her curatorial work in Vietnam, Butt is a member of the Asian Art Council at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, a member of Asia Society’s “Asia 21 Young Leaders,” and became a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum in 2015.
Brady Ng is Hong Kong desk editor at ArtAsiaPacific.