Dao Anh Khanh: Vietnam’s Most Controversial Artist 

Picture a treehouse built by a Vietnamese ex-police officer turned artists who draws his inspiration from human genitalia. Now read on and discover how Dao Anh Khanh has made this a reality. And click here to discover more of Hanoi’s fascinating characters.

What makes art controversial? It could be your own interpretation, whether you find it shocking, disturbing, or provocative. It could be the critics’ interpretations, pushing the boundaries of what art truly means.  

In Vietnam, you’ll find that this decision comes down to the police. Dao Anh Khanh has been on both sides of this argument. He was once a member of the censor department in the secret police. Now he holds the title of Vietnams most controversial artist.  

When meeting Dao Anh Khanh, you’ll quickly see why he takes the title of “most eccentric man in Hanoi.” His work is controversial, his paintings and sculptures repeatedly depicting the human genitalia, and his live performances have a sexual drive. What does this mean in a country so famously wrought with censorship? 

For Khanh, it all started when he was young and wanted to avoid mandatory service in the army. He enlisted, instead, with the police force. His father was a high-ranking police official. So, for 20 years Khanh worked in the secret police’s culture department, monitoring the activities of artists in Hanoi.  

Khanh will describe to you the latter part of his career in his own words. He often tells of how he would meet with performance artists who were pushing the limits of free expression. He did this to determine whether their art posed a threat to the status quo.  

Khanh left the police in the mid-90s. He was able to convince them to pay his way through art school. From there, he began painting full-time, eventually winning over his wary peers in the art scene, reassuring them that he wasn’t still a part of the secret police.   

These days it seems almost hard to believe that Khanh was ever in that line of work. You’ll find his art is relentlessly brave in the face of censorship, predominantly exploring sex with a straightforward approach. His controversial work has close ties to his time as a policeman, and with the communist party, but is personal and unique to him.  

Khanh is known largely for his controversial sculptures, and for his eccentric performances. These range from ladder burning and naked dancing, to erratic screams over professional heavy metal musicians.   

Today, Khanh’s attention is focused on his art installation turned treehouse turned homestay turned orgy destination – complete with sex dungeon.  

Entering his home, you’ll see everything you would expect of the man himself. It has vulvas hidden in every nook and cranny. There’s even one in a tree, which he claims that God gave him as a reward for his love of vulvas.   

Though his work may appear to be overly controversial within Vietnam’s society, to many it is merely a form of expression, one that has been around for centuries.  

Visiting Khanh’s house is like stepping into an artist’s wondering mind. Each corner is filled with imagination, and Khanh’s eccentric nature only adds to the welcoming atmosphere. Allow yourself to be swallowed up by fountain of creativity, and don’t worry too much about the sex dungeon – it’s invitation only. 

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

Hien Truong

Hi, my name is Hien. I’m managing director of Sisters Tours, Vietnam’s bespoke B2B agency. I’m also president of Vietnam’s only sustainable travel association: the Responsible Travel Club (RTC). Do you have questions? Send me an email at hien@sisterstoursvn.com and let’s get the conversation started.

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