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Diem Phung Thi

Diem Phung Thi (1920-2002, Vietnam) is considered one of the masters of Vietnamese modern art. In 1946, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Dentistry from Hanoi Medical University, and then served for two years in the resistance war (First Indochina War), against the French. In 1948, history books share that due to a major illness, she was sent to France for medical treatment, where she continued to study and eventually graduated in 1954 with a PhD in Dental Surgery in France with a Doctoral thesis on Vietnam’s “betel chewing custom”. It was not until 1959 that she also began practicing and studying sculpture, under the renowned sculptor Antoniucci Volti. In 1966, she had her first exhibition in France at Bernheim-Jeune Gallery in Paris. From then on, until she returned to Vietnam in 1992, she organized exhibitions across Europe of her work (and several internationally), with her artworks consequently acquired by many international collections. Her sculptural language is said to have reached its peak in artistic maturity and excellency for her invention of what came to be referred to as her ‘seven modules’, through which she created many artworks from a wide range of materials (paintings, reliefs, statues) and for which she was also best known. Her first exhibition held in Vietnam took place in 1978, at the Hanoi Fine Arts Association (now referred as the Exhibition House at 16 Ngo Quyen Street, Hanoi), and is arguably considered as one of the first abstract exhibitions in Vietnam. Before her death, Diem Phung Thi donated approximately 175 of her artworks to the city of Hue, which are honored and kept on display today, at a small museum named after her – the Diem Phung Thi Art Center (Hue Museum of Fine Art).