Park West Gallery remembers Le Ba Dang (1921-2015)
Park West Gallery, which holds fine art auctions on cruise ships, live auctions in major metropolitan areas, and runs galleries in Detroit and Miami Lakes, Florida, helped expose Dang’s artwork to a wider audience. Park West Gallery founder and CEO Albert Scaglione knew Dang for more than three decades.
The revered artist leaves behind paintings, lithographic prints and abstracts with private collectors and galleries the world over.
Dang was born in 1921 in the province of Quang Tri, and moved to Paris in 1939 where he joined the army to fight against German fascism. He was captured and held in a Nazi prison, and after his release, studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Tolouse for six years. His first solo show was in 1950.
Dang’s first marketing success was painting cats onto ceramic plates, which are sought-out items to this day. Following a show at the Cincinnati Art Museum in the 1960s, Dang wanted to create new and exciting art, and used oil paints to create large-scale abstract works. The artwork contained vivid blues and puddles of orange and red, and proved popular with tourists and collectors alike, further cementing him as serious artist.
Dang’s innovations included the use of foam board, cutting out intricate designs with a knife and placing the foam between pieces of glass to form patterns and effects as light shines through them. Dang also worked in printmaking, terra cotta and a variety of other media.
Each work speaks to the relationship of nature and man. His works also hint at his memories of growing up in Vietnam, with outlines of boats and bridges, as well as his experiences with the army.
Dang’s “signature” acted as a logo, closely resembling the calligrapher’s red square seal of a Chinese Song dynasty’s hand scroll. Their size, shape, and color are virtually identical.
Dang used his success to rebuild his devastated village in Vietnam, and was honored by his home country with a Le Ba Dang foundation and museum.
The artist split his time between Viet Nam and Paris, claiming that one day he would retire. His his creativity continued to flourish even in his 90s.
His accomplishments include an award from the International Institute of St. Louis in 1989 and a medal of recognition of artistic and cultural contributions by the French government in 1994.
He even has his own award, the Le Ba Dang Award, which is given bi-annually to someone who has demonstrated extraordinary volunteer service. The award was established by the International Institute of St. Louis to honor those who show “peace within you, your country, and the world.”
“Art, in all its forms, whether literature, philosophy, or the visual arts, expresses an attempt to understand the riddle of life and helps lessen the fear of death,” Dang once wrote.