The First Bát Tràng Museum by national artist vũ thắng
The First Bát Tràng Museum by
national artist vũ thắng

Vũ Khánh Tùng: “For once, I managed to fill in my father’s shoes”

“Countless is the number of shoes I have put myself in, some fit, some do not; but to this day, I realized, the ones I best fill in were those of my dad.”

At a brief glance, Tùng would seem… somewhat slow. Not slow in the sense that he is a slacker, but more of a “slow and steady wins the race” type of person. Thus, this early Millennial may sometimes strike you as an ironically senior man, whose thinking is always thorough and precise, and whose actions always align with what he sets out to do. Such is one of his most prominent features.

Or rather, he is swift in his own unique way, especially when the situation calls for it.

Take his “THE BÁT TRÀNG CERAMIC BOOTS. AN INSPIRATION FROM ITALY” exhibition for example. Held in Casa Italia between last April and May, the exhibition made quite the stir in the community. Its label may make it seem like it was carried out in a carefree manner, but the making of it was anything but. For months on end, Tung had to struggle with the project. The perfectionist that he is, Tung had to make sure that everything connects with one another, as to fully convey the narrative that needs to be told, in his own unique way.

It was an exhibition that couldn’t be any more minimalistic. The collection included exactly twelve items, all of which were the works of Tung’s father – the late National Artist, Vũ Thắng. Twelve items, twelve ceramic boots, each neatly displayed in an elaborate, yet cozy confines of Casa Italia. It only took a brief glance to recognize the sheer professionalism and intricacy of the organizer. Not only the distinctive values of the artworks were brought to the table, the exhibition also redefined the modern presentation of art through its meticulous appearance, careful composition, concise storytelling and unified brand identity.

“Of all the exhibitions that I have visited since my trip to Europe, I have never seen anything quite elegant and meticulous such as this.” – said Nguyễn Việt Nam, founder of TiredCity, a creative fashion brand that have recently garnered a prominent amount of attention from the young people of Vietnam – “It’s not just the artworks that is stunning, but also the framework of the exhibition space, and even the postcards that came along with it. The composite of them all formed a whole and unified identity.”

The number twelve was also quite a surprising choice to anyone who is familiar with the brand of Vũ Thắng — one of the only two National Artisan of Bát Tràng, with hundreds of art pieces over the 50 years span of his career to his name, many of them receiving prestigious awards and setting monumental records. Is this choice one derived from careful consideration, as “less is more”; or is it a display of pride at its core.

Tùng does not think so. Riddled with meanings this exhibition may be, it is all simply “the most special collection that my father leaves behind, for it is what bridges my career and his, […]” – as Tùng puts it – “What seemed like a simple assignment turned out to be not easy at all, especially to an artisan who is inherently distant to the fashion world. What’s more, this project was akin to a ‘package’ between two people whose professions couldn’t be any more different.”

In his early years, Tùng chose to major in Japanese linguistics, but as one thing led to another, he came to journalism as both a producer and an art director, a profession reserved for the adrift, yet leaderly likes such as him. Tùng adds: “Although I am indeed the only son of an artisan, I could never imagine myself following the footsteps of my father. I want to spend my years here and there, rather than always staying in one place, having my life constantly revolving around contracts and ceramics, like my father’s and mother’s.”

But everything changed in October 2016, when his father abruptly passed away in the middle of the construction of Bát Tràng Museum. What was left behind from the career that spanned 50 years of the artisan’s life is numerous priceless collections and masterpieces, many of which were one-of-a-kind. Despite a plethora of offers, the National Artist refused to sell away these works of his, for he had a grand design in his mind for all of them: the very first private museum in Vietnam, reserved for the ceramic of the famous Bát Tràng village. However, the legacy of Vũ Đức Thắng also poses a great challenge. Before the colossal burden of inheriting his father’s will, Tùng could not help but be stuck in a state of disorientation and uncertainty, since the path he had chosen could not have been any more different from his father’s. Regardless, in the midst of this predicament, Tùng came to realize the secret plan his father had hatched for him: to let him explore the world to his (and his father’s) desires, and when the time come, he would be ready, with what he managed to learn on his own, and what he was imparted with since boyhood.


Nowadays, Tùng can be seen with a rebranded business card, one with an additional title: “Director of Bát Tràng Museum of Viet Soul Art”. His first prominent remark as director was “THE BÁT TRÀNG CERAMIC BOOTS. AN INSPIRATION FROM ITALY”, which also marked the launch of the Bát Tràng Museum website ( This is the digital platform dedicated to all of the fine ceramic art of Vietnam, especially those of the historic ceramic village of Bát Tràng. Above all is the long-term plan of constructing Bát Tràng Museum, which aims to house and display hundreds of precious relics, including many invaluable antique collections, as well as the priceless masterpieces of the late Vũ Thắng.

“Countless is the number of shoes I have put myself in, some fit, some do not; but to this day, I realized, the ones I best fill in were those of my dad. Though I know I do not possess his talents nor his foresight, I do hope that I share his vision…”

And thus, were the shoes to walk a thousand miles in. As cruel and distant as life and death can be, this bond is the one thing they can never do part.

Words Thư Quỳnh
 Photos Lê Lai, Đỗ Sỹ
Translation Tống Mạnh

DEP MAGAZINE, ISSUE 268, August 2022

If you want to keep track on what’s happening here from time to time.

Xin hãy giữ liên lạc để nhận những thông tin mới nhất từ Bát Tràng Museum.