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Thursday, May 21, 2020, 23:00
Sovereign Asian Art Prize
By China Daily Lifestyle Premium
Thursday, May 21, 2020, 23:00 By China Daily Lifestyle Premium

The 16th annual Sovereign Asian Art award convenes its strongest-ever showing 

Almagul Menlibayeva, Caspian Palms, 2016–2018, Kazakhstan, digital inkjet print on archival paper

The 16th Sovereign Asian Art Prize looks to be one of the project’s most exciting line-ups yet, with 31 mid-career artists from the Asia-Pacific region shortlisted for the US$30,000 grand prize. Since launching in 2003, the award, presented by the Sovereign Art Foundation (SAF), has acted as a springboard for artists to achieve greater recognition.

Finalists for the 2020 Prize hail from 18 countries and territories. Hong Kong sees the strongest representation with four shortlisted artists (Chui Pui-chee, MAP Office, Peggy Chan and Rachel Cheung Wai-sze), followed by South Korea and Indonesia with three apiece. This year, more than 600 entries from 30 countries were considered – the largest number in the award’s history. 

Among the 31 shortlisted artists, 13 are previous finalists and have opted to participate again. The overall winner will be announced in May. At the time of writing, Kazakhstani artist Almagul Menlibayeva’s Caspian Palms, Singaporean artist Sarah Choo Jing’s Accelerated Intimacy (Matthew and Brenda) and Chinese artist Tao Xinglin’s Outdoor Sports No. 6 were among the works receiving high accolades. 

Sarah Choo Jing, Accelerated Intimacy (Matthew and Brenda), 2018, Singapore, digital prints

“The winner of the 2020 Sovereign Asian Art Prize will be chosen from the largest submission ever,” says chair judge David Elliott, a previous director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. “As would be expected, the growing number of submissions ensures a high calibre and wide range of work by the finalists, and I have no doubt that this exhibition will present a stimulating and revealing picture of art in Asia today.” 

The shortlisted artworks are being offered for sale through auction by Christie’s Hong Kong, with selected works available to purchase at the exhibition, which is scheduled to take place in June. As of now, the public can view the artworks, register interest and vote for their favourite online at sovereignartfoundation.com. Proceeds will be evenly split between the artists and SAF, where they will be used to fund charitable programmes for disadvantaged children in Hong Kong. 

“We are surprised and a little outraged that in one of the richest cities in the world, one in every five people lives below the official government poverty line,” says Howard Bilton, the SAF’s founder and chairman. “There is a huge wealth disparity in Hong Kong and this gap needs to be answered.” 

Most of the funds raised from the sale go to the Make It Better (MIB) programme, which Bilton explains is “an initiative that supports children from low-income backgrounds and with special educational needs in Hong Kong. The funds add to a substantial grant received from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust in 2017, allowing us to build further on this valuable work.”

Tao Xinglin, Outdoor Sports No. 6, 2018, China, oil on canvas


Lim Soo-sik, Chaekgado 442(Sister Library), 2019, South Korea, hand-stitched hanji (traditional Korean paper) with pigment ink


Anniketyni Madian, Begarasi #3, 2019, Malaysia, mixed hardwood


Chui Pui-chee, Nine Abysses IV, 2019, Hong Kong, ink and charcoal on paper


All images courtesy the artist and The Sovereign Art Foundation


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