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Danh Võ

b. 1975, Vietnam

Untitled (Les grands voyageurs), 18, 2014-2015

Talavera Pottery from Santa Maria Canchesda, Mexico

77 x 81 cm

This vase is part of Danh Võ's Les grands voyageurs series of Talavera pottery—crafted using a technique rooted in Moorish traditions from 12th-century Spain, later transported to Mexico during the Spanish colonial period. Commissioned by Võ in Mexico City, these ceramics, adorned with vivid depictions of New World voyages, were meticulously crafted by local artisans near his home.

Danh Võ, renowned for his nuanced use of loaded cultural symbols and materials, utilises the vessel to comment on matters of immigration and the enduring legacy of colonialism. Inspired by Thomas de Bry's Grand voyages—a compilation lauding European exploits in the 16th century—the imagery and series delve into the complex legacies of colonialism.

Beyond de Bry's sensationalised portrayal of the indigenous Taíno people from the Caribbean pouring gold into a coloniser's mouth, the vase adeptly interweaves seemingly disparate elements—Taíno culture, the choice of Talavera pottery, and even de Bry himself. This deliberate appropriation of symbols serves as a commentary on the global influence and disruption caused by Spanish colonialism. Võ's approach, rooted in the conscientious selection and recontextualisation of cultural artefacts, underscores his exploration of the complexities surrounding the profound impacts of historical legacies.

Photo: David Heald

Danh Võ (b. 1975, Vietnam)

Danh Võ is a Vietnamese artist based in Berlin and Mexico. Influenced by his background as an immigrant and subsequent nomad, his works explore themes of self-identity, and how our history and national ideologies influence the way we perceive both ourselves and the world around us. Võ combines the historical, contemporary, and personal to produce his enigmatic, yet symbolically charged pieces, which bring to light how interwoven and related our histories are. Through this realisation, Võ seeks to destabilise the influence of national and political agendas which perpetuate systems of exploitation and suffering.

Võ is a graduate of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and the Städelschule and a recipient of the distinguished Hugo Boss Prize (2013) and the Arken Art Prize (2015). His works have been exhibited globally as well at various institutions including the South London Gallery, UK (2019), Guggenheim Museum, New York (2018) and at the M+ Museum, Hong Kong (2018).

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