Hoi Biography


French Vietnamese



Hoi, whose real name was Le Ba Dang and who would often sign his work as 'Lebadang', was born on June 27, 1921 in Bich-La-Dong, Hue province, Vietnam. While still a teenager, he secretly altered personal documents to join the Main d'oeuvre Indigine (M.O.I), or "Indigenous Manpower" branch of the French Ministry of Labor in 1939. Unbeknownst to Hoi, it was an exploitive operation that would place him in a prison at Baumettes for Indochinese citizens forcibly recruited from their homelands to build munitions for the Second World War, after French citizens were drafted into the army. From June 1940 until August 1941, Hoi escaped from a prison factory, was caught, re-imprisoned in the Hautes-Pyrenees, and once more escaped to Toulouse, a free zone. 

Hoi rarely spoke of this time, one which he found too painful to address even through art. However, its end came with a life-changing twist, as he was able to take his first formal lessons in painting and sculpture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, under the tutelage of Espinasse and Manin. He found success with his professors and was invited to create the brochures for a variety of events at the school. Following the war, he continued to take lessons at the school and in 1948 he received his diploma. At this time he also entered a design competition, for which he won first prize. With the competition money, he moved to Paris. 

In 1950 he held his first solo exhibition in Paris, which gained critical acclaim and was quickly followed by shows throughout France. With sales he was able to open a studio in the rue de la Montagne-Saint-Genevieve, where he focused on oil painting and drawing in India ink. He exhibited regularly at the Galerie de l'Odeon in Paris and, in the late 1950s, at the Galerie Cezanne in Cannes. His works at this time showed the influence of both of the worlds he was a part of, incorporating watercolor and brushed ink reminiscent of the artwork of Vietnam with the influence of European Modernism. This led to a variety of commissions, including an illustration job commissioned by the director of the Far Eastern Department at UNESCO to illustrate a book of poetry, published by Editions Euros. 

By the 1960s, he was exhibiting in Germany, Switzerland, Norway, London, and in the United States, with 
a major exhibition at the Cincinnati Museum in Ohio that opened the doors to the booming American art collectors' market. He also began to take an interest in printmaking, publishing a variety of portfolios of lithographs and uninked relief etchings. As the Vietnam war gained worldwide attention, Hoi turned his artistic lens to the theme of war, painting a series titled "Paysage Indomptable" (Indomitable landscape), executed in black and white with red lines representing the Ho Chi Min trail. During the Paris Peace Talks of 1973 he requested that M. Le Duc Tho, the chief Vietnamese negotiator, bring back metal debris from the B52 bombs in order for Hoi to create a series of sculptures addressing the devastation done to his homeland. Hoi would send the proceeds of these works to the Vietnamese government to aid in recovery efforts; he himself would also return to Vietnam in 1975 to locate dispersed family and help rebuild his village. 

Hoi's reputation and following grew exponentially throughout the 1970s and '80s. In 1974, the founder of Circle Fine Art Corporation provided him with shows in prominent galleries throughout the U.S., and in 1978 he worked with Vietnamese composer Nguyen Thien Dao to create a set and costumes for his opera My Chau - Trong Thuy at the Opera de Paris. In the 1980s, in addition to printmaking and painting, he took up wood sculpture and jewelry making, and in 1985 he began his series, Espaces, a series of works in print, bas relief, and collage to create a sculpted quality. 

Hoi continued to work tirelessly until very near his death on March 7, 2015, without wavering in global admiration. He was given honorary citizenship to the city of New Orleans in Louisiana in 1991; was nominated "Honorary Citizen of the Year" at Cambridge, England, in 1992; and in 1994 he was appointed Chevalier de 'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Minister Culture. 

Hoi's work is exhibited in Dusseldorf, Paris, Nantes, Cologne, Cannes and Aix en Provence galleries. His work is included in numerous permanent private and public collections including: Rockefeller Collection, New York; Loo Collection in Tokyo; Verkerke Collection, Holland; Phoenix Art Museum, USA; Cincinnati Museum, USA; Columbia Art Institute, USA; Lund University Museum, Sweden; Foundation Museum, Kenya; and the Museum of Arts and Letters, France, among many others.

Find a detailed history of Hoi and his work on his website.