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The Most Expensive Photo Sold in Asia

The Vietnam based French photographer made history by selling his iconic portrait of a Vietnamese tour boat captain for $150,000 USD – making it the most expensive photograph ever sold in Asia.

The portrait depicts Bui Thi Xong, a 72-year-old woman who makes her living shuttling tourists around Hoi An’s waterways. Bui’s mouth is covered by her hands but the laugh lines fanning out from her eyes show unmistakeable good humor.

Iconic Portrait Used for Cover of 1st Fine Art Photo Book

Réhahn chose the portrait for his first Fine Art photographic book “Vietnam, Mosaic of Contrasts Volume I” in 2014.

Published in more than 500 articles worldwide, the image has become one of the most well-known photographs of modern Vietnam.

“To me, this photograph is representative of the real Vietnam. It blends modesty and humor, old age and happiness. It encompasses the true spirit of the woman who has now become my muse – the unforgettable Madame Xong.”— Réhahn

Hidden Smile Honored in Museums and French Diplomacy

Emmanuel Macron and Nguyễn Phú Trọng
Emmanuel Macron and Nguyễn Phú Trọng

Réhahn began taking photographs during his travels and it quickly went from a personal project to a professional one. His career has been marked by numerous honors.

In 2015 and 2016, “Hidden Smile” was added to the permanent collections of the Asian House in Cuba and the Hanoi Women’s Museum in Vietnam.

In 2018, Nguyen Phu Trong (former President of Vietnam), gave an edition of “Hidden Smile” to French President Emmanuel Macron during a ceremony commemorating 45 years of diplomatic relations between France and Vietnam.

Giving Back with Sales of Fine Art Portrait

The 3rd and final copy of the Collector’s Edition of “Hidden Smile” was sold to a private collector in 2018. The sale of the photograph was used by the artist to fund 100% of the construction for a cultural museum for the Co Tu ethnic group in Central Vietnam. It also allowed for permanent support of ‘Madame Xong’ as part of Réhahn’s “Giving Back Project.”

A Museum-Quality Fine Art Photo

Hidden Smile” is an extremely limited series with only three extra-large Collector’s Editions ever made, in addition to 15 in the large size.

The museum-quality photograph is processed (not printed) in the artist’s photo laboratory in Germany onto archival caliber metallic photographic paper. The silver-halide technology used in the processing allows for increased depth of contrast and a three-dimensional effect.

The artist confirms that there are only 2 copies of “Hidden Smile” left out of 15 in the 60×90 cm size. The Collector’s Edition size is already sold-out.

Contact Réhahn Photography here for more information.