Asia in the spotlight: The Prudential Eye Awards 2016

The prestigious event honours well-deserving names from across Greater Asia in 10 diverse categories.

Now in its third edition, the Prudential Eye Awards for Contemporary Asian Art bears witness to the rising quality of Asian art. 

2016 Prudential Eye Awards winners. Image courtesy the Prudential Eye Awards 2016.

2016 Prudential Eye Awards winners. Image courtesy the Prudential Eye Awards 2016.

The Prudential Eye Awards 2016 was held at the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on 19 January 2016. Featuring 15 shortlisted artists, 39 works and an eminent panel of Judges, the event celebrates Asia’s most exciting up-and-coming talent.

The awards ceremony was officiated by Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, as part of the ongoing Singapore Art Week. Works by the winning and shortlisted artists are on show at the ArtScience Museum until 27 March 2016.

Portrait of Sareth Svay. Image courtesy the Prudential Eye Awards 2016.

Portrait of Sareth Svay. Image courtesy the Prudential Eye Awards 2016.

Sareth Svay: Overall Best Emerging Artist

The big winner of the night was Cambodian artist Sarath Svay (b. 1972, Battambang, Cambodia). The refugee-escapee turned artist, whose work was part of the 2013 Singapore Biennale, took home the award for Best Emerging Artist Using Sculpture as well as the overall Emerging Artist of the Year award. Svay received a total of USD50,000 as prize money as well as the chance to hold a solo exhibition at Saatchi Gallery in London this year.

Sareth Svay, 'Warning House', 2013-ongoing, found materials, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and SA SA BASSAC.

Sareth Svay, ‘Warning House’, 2013-ongoing, found materials, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and SA SA BASSAC.

According to BlouinArtinfo, Svay is known for a “rigorous, conceptually charged practice that explores difficult issues related to the political history of his home country”. Working fluidly across various media such as sculpture, installation and performance, Svay’s critical and compelling oeuvre bridges his own difficult personal history with the core challenges that face Cambodian society today. Niru Ratnam, Director of the Prudential Eye Programme, was quoted by BlouinArtinfo as saying:

Sareth Svay’s story is incredible and inspiring. His art work draws on a very specific context but transcends that. He produces works that are funny, poetic and confident. He is a worthy winner of the Prudential Eye Awards.

Individual awards for painting, photography, installation and digital/video

The other four individual emerging artist awards were presented to well-deserving representatives from across Greater Asia, including:

  • Manish Nai (India): Best Emerging Artist Using Painting
  • Shumon Ahmed (Bangladesh): Best Emerging Artist using Photography
  • Huang Po Chih (Taiwan): Best Emerging Artist using Installation
  • Trinh Thi Nguyen (Vietnam): Best Emerging Artist Using Digital/Video
Portrait of Manish Nai. Image courtesy the Prudential Eye Awards 2016.

Portrait of Manish Nai. Image courtesy the Prudential Eye Awards 2016.

Each artist received a cash prize of USD20,000. Their works are being exhibited at the ArtScience Museum until 27 March 2016, along with contributions by other nominated artists. As Today Online notes, Southeast Asia is in the spotlight this year, “with eight of the 15 finalists up for the major awards coming from the region”. The 2016 judging panel comprised:

  • Serenella Ciclitira, Co-Founder of Global Eye Programme and Parallel Contemporary Art
  • Chang Tsong-Zung, Founder and Director, Hanart Gallery TZ
  • Fumio Nanjo, Director of Mori Art Museum
  • Honor Harger, Executive Director, ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands
  • Nigel Hurst, Director and Chief Executive, Saatchi Gallery
  • Rosalyn D’Mello, Writer, Editor and Art Critic
  • Gu Wenda, Artist, 2015 Prudential Eye Awards Lifetime Achievement Award winner

Sakarin Krue-On: Lifetime Achievement Award

The Lifetime Achievement Award for Asian Contemporary Art, announced in early January in advance of the ceremony, was presented to Thai artist Sakarin Krue-On (b. 1965). BlouinArtinfo writes:

Some of the most significant highlights of Krue-On’s career include taking a pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2009 and repurposing it as a tourist office. […] In another landmark presentation, “Terraced Rice Field” (2007), Krue-On built a fully operational, 7,000 square meter terraced rice field adjacent to the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe castle building in Kassel for Documenta 12 […].

Portrait of Sakarin Krue-on. Image courtesy the Prudential Eye Awards 2016.

Portrait of Sakarin Krue-on. Image courtesy the Prudential Eye Awards 2016.

Niru Ratnam remarked, quoted by the same article:

Whilst other successful Asian artists have sited their practice within a global language of contemporary practice, Krue-On continues to work through nuances specific to Asian cultural identity. For this, and for his international success, he is the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the third Prudential Eye Awards.

Group awards go to independent Hong Kong spaces

Apart from individual artists, the Awards recognises institutions and their cutting-edge exhibitions via online voting. This year, both group awards go to independent art spaces from Hong Kong: Spring Workshop won the award for Best Asian Contemporary At Institution, while Para Site took home the prize for Best Exhibition of Asian Contemporary Art for “Great Crescent: Art and Agitation in the 1960s – Japan, South Korea and Taiwan”.

Spring Workshop entrance. Photo by Claudia Whitney. Image courtesy Spring Workshop.

Spring Workshop entrance. Photo by Claudia Whitney. Image courtesy Spring Workshop.

The list of other nominated institutions includes Thailand’s the land foundation and Singapore’s NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore. Meanwhile, the shortlist of notable exhibitions in 2015 comprises:

Cosmin Costinas, Director of Para Site, wrote on his Facebook page:

Thank you to everyone who voted for us! Honoured to be receiving the Prudential Eye Award [for] Best Exhibition of Asian Contemporary Art […] during our 20th anniversary year! And for the ones who didn’t have the chance to catch the exhibition at Para Site or at the Mori Art Museum, Great Crescent will be on view at the MUAC in Mexico City, from 30 January through 29 May. 

Michele Chan

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Related Topics: Cambodian artists, Thai artists, Indian artists, Bangladeshi artists, Taiwanese artists, Vietnamese artists, awards ceremonies, art spaces, connecting Asia to itself, events in Singapore

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