Vietnamese Artist Dropped From UK Exhibit Because ‘Asians Are Seen as Coronavirus Carriers’

Vietnamese Artist Dropped From UK Exhibit Because ‘Asians Are Seen as Coronavirus Carriers’Vietnamese Artist Dropped From UK Exhibit Because ‘Asians Are Seen as Coronavirus Carriers’
A Vietnamese artist and curator in the U.K. has become the latest target of COVID-19 racism after getting banned from attending an art fair in London
An Nguyen was supposed to assist in the exhibit for Raquelle Azran, a dealer specializing in contemporary Vietnamese fine art, at the Affordable Art Fair (AFF) in Battersea, London, scheduled to launch next week.
But in an email earlier this week, Azran informed Nguyen that her role had been canceled as her presence in their stand would “create hesitation.”
“I am very sorry to have to cancel your assistance at the fair next week. The coronavirus is causing much anxiety everywhere, and fairly or not, Asians are being seen as carriers of the virus,” Azran wrote. “Your presence on the stand would unfortunately create hesitation on the part of the audience to enter the exhibition space.”
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Nguyen, who shared a screenshot of the email on Instagram, did not name Azran in order to prevent a potential witch-hunt.
“I have shared my email without the sender to address non-violent racism,” she wrote, according to the Independent. “If you are seeing that the issue is solely with the person in question alone it is not. It is the systematic structure of knowledge production that informs some of us that normalising non-aggressive discrimination is acceptable which needs to change.”
However, it did not take long before Azran’s identity was revealed. In a statement, the art dealer apologized for “any offense” and announced that she will no longer be at the upcoming Battersea event.
“I apologize unreservedly for any offense caused by my actions. They were insensitive and in hindsight reflected poor judgment for me to cancel An Nguyen joining my stand as an assistant,” Azran said, according to CNN. “I will no longer be exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair next week. I shall continue, as I have over the past two decades, to encourage and exhibit Vietnamese artists and help them achieve the recognition they deserve.”
Raquelle Azran. Image via Raquelle Azran on LinkedIn
AAF also released a statement maintaining that they had nothing to do with Azran’s email.
“The message was not sent by the Affordable Art Fair and was a communication sent by a gallery to one of their artists. We were not aware of this email communication or its contents and we do not condone the views or implications within the message,” AAF wrote. “We wish to reassure that these views are not held by the Affordable Art Fair and we have not instructed any exhibiting gallery to take such action.”
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The news of Nguyen’s experience comes just as the chief medical officer in England, Prof. Chris Whitty, warned against the vilification of those feared to have the infection, according to The Guardian.
On Feb. 24, a Singaporean student was attacked on Oxford Street by a group of four men who assumed he had COVID-19, leaving him with facial fractures that likely warrant reconstructive surgery.
Singaporean student Jonathan Mok immediately after the attack. Image via Jonathan Mok
Interestingly, Nguyen’s story has other news sources confusing her with another An Nguyen — an artist living in Ottawa, Canada.
In an Instagram post, the latter claimed that she had been contacted by outlets such as the BBC, CNN and The Guardian for an interview, adding that it has already affected her unfairly.
“I am not the artist mentioned in this article as I live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, not London, England,” Nguyen declared, referring to an article by Raw Story that used her image. “I feel disappointed that this level of racism targeted towards Asian people is occurring and encourage people to be aware of how your biases can negatively affect others whether intentional or unintentional. Spread love, not fear.”
She added, “To the An Nguyen who this article is truly about, I can’t imagine dedicating all this time to your art then have this opportunity unfairly taken away because of your skin colour. I hope you keep pursuing your passion for art in spite of this.”
Feature Image via Vietnam Tourism (Right)
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