The Rockbund Art Museum recently announced the finalists of the 3rd edition of the prize.

The HUGO BOSS ASIA ART Award 2017 includes three artists from China and one from Singapore in its latest finalists shortlist.

Robert Zhao Renhui, "Christmas Island, Naturally" series, 2016. Image courtesy the artist.

Robert Zhao Renhui, “Christmas Island, Naturally” series, 2016. Image courtesy the artist.

Dedicated to the support of emerging artists from Greater China and Southeast Asia, the biennial HUGO BOSS ASIA ART Award was established in 2013 and is now in its third iteration. The Award aims to contribute towards artistic and cultural exchanges in the broader historical and social contexts of Greater China and Southeast Asia. It helps in giving voice to emerging contemporary artists in the region and bridging boundaries in order to encourage intercultural communication.

The 2017 finalists shortlist includes Chinese artists Li Ming, Tao Hui and and Yu Ji, and Singaporean Robert Zhao Renhui.

The award winner will be announced in November 2017 and will receive a prize of RMB300,000. A group exhibition showcasing the artwork of the four finalists will run at Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) from 27 October 2017 to 7 January 2018, featuring newly commissioned as well as existing works by the finalist artists. Previous winners include Kwan Sheung Chi from Hong Kong (2013) and Filipino artist Maria Taniguchi (2015).

Quoted in the press release Larys Frogier, Director of RAM and Chair of the HUGO BOSS ASIA ART jury, elaborates on the new selection process that includes nominators:

The solid expertise and engagement of the nominators in specific Asian art contexts, their independent and on-going support to emerging Asian artists, as well as their fresh and precious observation of contemporary art in Asia allow this first list to be closely connected to audacious artistic practices and creative transformations. The emerging Asian artists thus selected are highly relevant for the HUGO BOSS ASIA ART Award. With the jury examining the nominators’ selection, additional opportunities arise for exchanges in new contexts, topics and practices, since the jury is able to conduct further, in-depth research on the nominated artists.

Tao Hui. Image courtesy the artist and RAM.

Tao Hui. Image courtesy the artist and RAM.

2. Tao Hui (China)

Another finalist from China is Beijing-based Tao Hui (b. 1983, Yunyang, Chongqing Province, China). Although he graduated from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute with a BFA in Oil Painting, his current practice focuses on moving image and video installation. In 2015, he won the Grand Prize at Contemporary Art Festival Sesc VideoBrasil for his video entitled Talk about body (2013), in which he utilises the language of Chinese TV shows to discuss the dichotomy between tradition and progress at the basis of contemporary Chinese society. In the work, Tao Hui wears a Muslim woman’s dress, and talks about himself, highlighting questions of belonging and identity.

In 2015 UCCA held “New Directions: Tao Hui”, which presented three works by the artist. The video The Acting Tutorial was filmed inside an abandoned building with a troupe of amateur actors rehearsing extreme scenarios. The multi-channel video installation Excessive featured a narrative of conflict, while in 1 Character & 7 Materials the audience was invited to wear wireless headphones to listen to an exhausted narrator retell her life story over and over. The latter work also gave the title to Tao Hui’s solo exhibition that same year at AIKE-DELLARCO in Shanghai.

Yu Ji. Image courtesy the artist and RAM.

Yu Ji. Image courtesy the artist and RAM.

3. Yu Ji (China)

The only female finalist, Shanghai-based Yu Ji (b. 1985, Shanghai) graduated from the Department of Sculpture at the Fine Art College of Shanghai University. She mainly works with sculpture and installation, but also uses performance and video to investigate specific locations that are charged with particular geographical and historical narratives.

Her most recent solo exhibition was entitled “Black Mountain” and was presented by Beijing Commune in 2016. It featured a diverse range of work, from her sculptural works Ta Jama series started in 2012 and an extension of her Flesh in Stone series to Pataauw Stone, a video produced during her six-week residency in Kuandu, Taipei in 2015. Her other solo shows include “Dairy of Sulfur Mining-Pataauw” (2016) at Mind Set Art Center, Taipei, and “Never Left Behind” (2014) at Beijing C-Space.

Yu Ji has exhibited at various art institutions including Palais des Tokyo in France, CAFA Museum in Beijing, Yuz Museum Shanghai, and Times Museum Guangzhou, as well as the 11th Gwangju Biennale and the 11th Shanghai Biennale in 2016. Yu Ji is a co-founder of the non-profit, experimental Am Art Space in Shanghai.

Yu Ji, "Black Mountain", 2016, Beijing Commune. Image courtesy the artist and Beijing Commune.

Yu Ji, “Black Mountain”, 2016, Beijing Commune. Image courtesy the artist and Beijing Commune.

​Yu Ji was nominated by the editor of The Art Newspaper China, Beijing-based Ye Ying, who stated about the artist:

Yu Ji emerged from an academic background in sculpture. Looking at her works, I found myself touched by the embedded energy and power. Her multilayered contemplations into the tradition, environment, and status of herself as an individual and an artist were consistent in both her sculptures and outdoor installations that involved the intervention of her own body. She establishes dialogues with the logic of sculpture, the diversity of materials, and the sensitivity and fragmentation of space. She uses her physical presence and devotion as a measurement and instrument. Yu inserted herself into the relation of time and space, enabling her art with unique energy.

Flexibility and toughness, inheriting and deconstructing, presence and alienation, these contradicting features blended, mixed, and achieved resonance in Yu Ji’s practice. In nowadays’ context of massive impact of moving images and the homogeneousness of artistic production, Yu Ji set herself up as a rare and outstanding talent, reshaping and injecting new blood into the time-honoured medium as sculpture.

Robert Zhao Renhui. Image courtesy the artist and RAM.

Robert Zhao Renhui. Image courtesy the artist and RAM.

4. Robert Zhao Renhui (Singapore)

The final artist in the shortlist is Singaporean Robert Zhao Renhui (b. 1983, Singapore), who studied in the United Kingdom at Camberwell College of Arts and London College of Communication at the University of the Arts London. His practice is primarily photographic, although he also includes documents and objects to support his images.

Among his most recent solo exhibitions are “Christmas Land, Naturally” (2017) at ShangART Singapore, which comprised work commissioned for and exhibited at the Biennale of Sydney in 2016 and “The Nature Collector” (2015) at ShangART Shanghai. “A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World” (2014) at Primo Marella Gallery in Milan included works commissioned and shown at the Singapore Biennale in 2013. Besides the two Asia Pacific-based biennales, the artist also participated in the Moscow International Biennale of Young Art 2014 and Photoquai Photography Biennial (France) 2013, and exhibited in Noorderlicht Photofestival (Amsterdam), Format Festival (Derby), Fukouka Asian Art Museum, Photo Levallois (Paris) and Seoul Arts Center (Korea), among others.

Robert Zhao Renhui, 'Pergam', 2016, matt Diasec in black frame, 120 x 80 cm, edition 1/5 + 1AP. Image courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery.

Robert Zhao Renhui, ‘Pergam’, 2016, matt Diasec in black frame, 120 x 80 cm, edition 1/5 + 1AP. Image courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery.

Robert Zhao Renhui was nominated by Alia Swastika, a Jakarta-based curator and writer, who commented on his practice:

Robert Zhao works mainly with photography but in a deeper process of archival photos rather than to see himself as a photographer. Most of his works utilize old photos and archives that he has been searching and investigating, particularly in relation to Singapore history. Robert Zhao’s interest in his city and national identity, as he seems questioning the lack sense of history in Singaporean community in general, with the challenge of rapid globalization and internationalization in the country.

Robert Zhao traces personal and hidden stories from families, communities, landmark of the city that might be forgotten by the changing landscape and urban development. The complexity of the narratives and the sophisticated details of the story telling had enable Robert Zhao’s works to relate with the wider audience, and at the same time to open up discussions on forgotten memories. Robert Zhao combines his archival photography approach with installation, texts, performing narratives and many others. He is interested in the idea where exhibitions could be seen as a platform of performing histories and narratives, therefore, storytelling and building flows for the visual imaginary become his strongest elements of display.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia


Related Topics: Chinese artists, Singaporean artists, video, installation, photography, performance, art prizes, events in Shanghai, museum shows, news

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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