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Emerging artists battle it out for prestigious Asian prize

Apr 30. 2019
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By The Nation

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The 2019 Sovereign Asian Art Prize, the 15th edition of one of Asia’s prestigious prize for contemporary artists, recently announced the 30 finalists with Myanmar-born, Thailand-based Sawangwongse Yawnghwe representing Thailand.

Over 70 independent art professionals from across Asia Pacific nominated 400 mid-career artists, hailing from 28 countries, for the prize. A total of 19 countries are represented amongst the 30 finalists, making it the most geographically diverse shortlist in the history of the award.

This edition also sees the launch of a brand-new award, the Vogue Hong Kong Women’s Art Prize, to be presented in partnership with the newly launched Vogue Hong Kong that will see US$5,000 (Bt160,000) awarded to the highest scoring female artist in the competition (except for the Grand Prize Winner).

The entries were shortlisted by an international panel of art specialists, including writer, curator and museum director David Elliott; Jan Dalley, Arts Editor of the i; Mami Kataoka, Deputy Director and Chief Curator at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Hong Kong architect, artist and educator William Lim; and internationally renowned artist Zhang Huan. Nominators are typically art critics, lecturers and independent curators who work closely with artists in their respective regions.

The selected artists represent cutting-edge contemporary art practices from the countries in which they reside. Their artworks explore and encourage discourse on a wide range of subject matters, including ideas of family, identity, growth, cultural heritage and diaspora; space, time, urban development and the spatial rhythms of modern cities, amongst others. 

Singapore, for instance, is represented by five artists including Boo Sze Yang, Joo Choon Lin, Nicola Anthony, Urich Lau Wai-Yuen and Valerie Ng. South Korea has three artists, Chanmin Park, Cho Yi Kyung and Minho Kim, in the mix, while Kazakhstan is also represented by three artists namely Narynov Saken, Saule Suleimenova and Ulan Dzhaparov.

“In this, another great year for The Sovereign Asian Art Prize, Korea, Pakistan and Singapore figure strongly in the judges’ choice, with excellent representations also from Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macao, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. This must be one of the most diverse manifestations of art from Asia. As many of these artists are still emerging on the international scene, it is a great opportunity to discover their work,” said chair judge David Elliott.

The portfolio of organiser, Sovereign Art Foundation’s social responsibility projects includes art empowerment programmes geared towards Vietnam’s most vulnerable children, a music and arts programme for orphaned or abandoned children in Mongolia’s capital, arts healing projects for victims of human trafficking in Cambodia; and a youth-lead pilot project in rural Nepal that raises awareness of children’s rights. Since 2013, SAF has focused on growing its own Make It Better (MIB) project, an initiative that provides expressive arts-led learning activities to children living in some of the Hong Kong’s most impoverished areas. The programme currently delivers weekly workshops in 27 schools and centres across Hong Kong. 

Today is the last day of the exhibition of the 30 shortlisted artworks at Hart Hall in H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong. At the exhibition, the public can view the works first-hand and will be invited to cast a vote for their favourite work to win the Public Vote Prize (votes will also be accepted via the SAF web gallery and Facebook page). All voters will automatically be entered into a lucky draw to win two business class tickets to any Asia destination on the Cathay Pacific network, courtesy of the airline.

The Grand Prize and Public Vote Prize winning artists, to be awarded US$30,000 and US$1,000 respectively, will be announced along with the winner of the Vogue Hong Kong Women’s Art Prize at The Sovereign Art Foundation’s ‘Make It Better’ Gala Dinner and Auction on May 17, at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. The shortlisted artworks will be auctioned and proceeds split evenly between the artists and SAF’s charitable projects.

Tickets to the Gala Dinner and Auction can be purchased through the SAF website or by contacting Kristy Lam at


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