Thursday, April 3, 2014

10S - The Rise of Graffiti in Saigon

Graffiti, which has run the gamut in the US from police chasing kids armed only with spray paint, to upstanding citizens painting over these scary defacings of public property, to Banksy stalkers waiting for him to finish so they can carefully knock down the wall and sell it for a gazillion dollars.  The market has spoken.  And, in so doing, nearly destroyed the purpose and beauty of this underground grassroots movement.

Smithsonian Magazine, in an article written by Will Ellsworth-Jones and appearing in their February 2013 issue:
It could be said that Banksy’s subversiveness diminishes as his prices rise. He may well have reached the tipping point where his success makes it impossible for him to remain rooted in the subculture he emerged from.
Americans have become jaded about this art form.  Which is why I was so happy to open my latest missive from the Wooster Collective this morning and see a country with no tradition of graffiti (other than graffiti left behind by American soldiers, but that's a story for another day), beginning its tenuous journey with graffiti and the talented artists behind it.

The country is Vietnam, the city is Saigon and the graffiti artists call themselves "10S" (short for 10 Seconds Crew).  10S recently celebrated their 5th anniversary as a group by painting their largest surface to date - a 100' x 16' wall.

Daos (10s)

What makes this story even more unique is how they were able to obtain the required materials.  Turns out the average day's pay in Vietnam is approximately $3 (in US dollars) and a can of spray paint runs approximately $5 or $6 dollars.  You see the problem.  The market has not so much spoken as hit them over the head with cold hard un-artist-like facts.

Daos (10s)
Enter Sahra Van Nguyen.  Sahra is Vietnamese and for the past 9 years, she has conducted fundraising for various issues around the world (including New Orleans).  Sahra's 2013 birthday wish was to raise enough money for 10S to complete their 5th anniversary wish, painting the largest wall they had ever tackled.

Sahra is amazing.  As part of her fundraising, which she conducted through YouCaring, a portion of the funds was set aside to bring art supplies and workshops to a local orphanage.

Oh, and also to make a short documentary "on the graffiti scene in Vietnam."

All of which she accomplished.


Here's the actual wall as the painting takes shape.  Wooster Collective:
"Take a good look at their rusty scaffolding and wobbly bamboo ladders. No matter the conditions they have to work with, these guys are still pushing their limits to go big. It's inspiring to see the way art continues to transcend cultural and language barriers and connects us all. It's powerful."

Hope 10S someday sells a wall for a gazillion dollars.  At which point I will look for a country without a history of graffiti . . .


  1. Great blog, Carolyn! Taking a fresh perspective on Graffiti and bringing up the groundbreaking work of Sahra Vang Nguyen, is awesome. 10S art work brings colors and life to cold grey walls of the city. Sahra's work in philanthropy and at inspiring today's young people is helping to change the world.

    1. Thanks, M. You got it - that is exactly what I was trying to convey. So many wonderful aspects to this one story - and there are stories like this all over the world. It's good to be a blogger. :)

  2. being friends with some internationally known and local graffiti artist I really enjoyed this piece