IT'S NOT often that we can wander into a local art gallery and look at paintings by artists whose work also hangs in a national museum, but it's possible to do just that this month at Galerie La Vong. This was the first gallery dedicated to Vietnamese art outside of that country, and it celebrates its 10th anniversary with a special exhibition. 'Vietnamese art is a wonderful marriage of East and West. It carries a French legacy but its spirit is Vietnamese,' says gallery owner Shirley Hui. On holiday in Vietnam in 1991, a few years after the country opened up, Ms Hui met a local art critic and was invited into the homes of some of the country's best artists. Many trips to Vietnam later, her personal collection had grown substantially and her husband suggested she set up a gallery. Many of the artists who Ms Hui and her partner Julia Wen represented in those early days are still with the gallery, and most of them have created works especially for this exhibition. They span three generations of Vietnam's finest contemporary artists, including master painters Bui Xuan Phai and Nguyen Tu Nghiem, who were among the last graduates of the French Fine Art Academy in 1945. Of the middle generation, one of the finest artists is Do Quang Em, who is best known for his portraits and his superb use of light and shadow. Also worthy of note is Buu Chi, who died last year. Buu Chi was involved in the anti-war movement and after he graduated in 1971, he was thrown in jail for five years for a series of drawings he did for the movement. The time he spent behind bars had a profound influence on his work. Nguyen Trung is also in this middle generation of artists, and is known for his fascination with the cultural history of Vietnam as seen through the country's ancient walls and buildings. Of the younger generation, Nguyen Thanh Binh is perhaps the best known - and the most copied. His work is minimalist, often depicting young girls and dancers in simple whites, browns and taupe. He rarely details the hands and faces and instead focuses on form and colour. Pham Luan is one of the leading landscape artists. He is known for his Hanoi street scenes and paintings of markets. He uses broad brushstrokes with thick daubs of paint to create colourful canvasses. His style has also been widely copied in Vietnam, although it will be harder for imitators to get away with copying his most recent work: landscapes of Venice. Many of Vietnam's best artists are afraid of exhibiting in their own country for fear of being copied, so this exhibition is probably your best bet if you want to see the work of the country's finest painters. Tenth Anniversary Of Galerie La Vong runs at the gallery until August 20. Galerie La Vong, 13/F, 1 Lan Kwai Fong, Central. Tel: 2869 6863.