Jan 21 2014

Awards Galore: Inaugural Prudential Eye Awards Launches in Singapore

by Sylvia Tsai

The Prudential Eye Awards ceremony at Singapore’s Suntec City convention center, which took place on January 18, 2014. All photos by Sylvia Tsai for ArtAsiaPacific.

Press conference held on January 17 at Suntec City, Singapore. Some of the 20 shortlisted artists and organizers: (from left to right) Yuji Honbori, Jompet Kuswidananto, Irina Korina, Fiona Lowry, Ben Quilty, Eric Bridgeman, Yong Ho Ji, Pussy Riot (Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova), David Ciclitira, Almond Chu and Yang Yongliang.

On Saturday, January 18, at Singapore’s Suntec City convention center, the inaugural Prudential Eye Awards (PEA) for emerging Asian artists went to Ben Quilty of Sydney, Australia. Comprising five categories—digital/video, installation, painting, photography and sculpture—the award recognized Quilty as the overall winner as well as the category winner for painting.  Judging the PEA was a panel of seven art and cultural professionals including Nick Mitzevich from the Art Gallery of Southern Australia, Nigel Hurst from Saatchi Gallery, Serenella Ciclitira of Parallel Contemporary Art and Tan Boon Hui from Singapore’s National Heritage Board.

The award comes with a USD 50,000 prize along with a solo show at London’s Saatchi Gallery this summer. “It feels amazing, absolutely amazing,” said Quilty post ceremony, while giving fellow Aussie nominee Fiona Lowry a celebratory embrace. “Ben is an artist of the 21st century,” commented judge Mitzevich, “his works challenge painting with subject matter and technique.”

BEN QUILTY, Smashed Rorschach, 2009, diptych, oil on linen, 190 × 280 cm.

Jompet Kuswidananto with his installation Cortege of the Third Realm (2012).

Seung Wook Sim with his work Construction & Deconstruction (2013).

Four other category winners were each awarded USD 20,000. In the category of installation, out of 20 shortlisted artists, Indonesian artist Jompet Kuswidananto was selected for his work Cortege of the Third Realm (2012), a configuration of suspended objects and props—such as guitars, sound systems, loud speakers and drums—collected from community parades in Indonesia and presented in the form of a line of imaginary packhorses. “I’ve been working with this idea of cultures in transition, particularly Indonesia, whose situation is constantly shifting,” Kuswidananto said of his work. “I feel like I can capture the current shape of society, at least on the surface.” Kuswidananto’s use of ghost horses presents another level of engagement with the materials, “The horse appears a lot in our mythology,” he said. “It also shows this idea of motion and movement.”

For his ominous installation Construction & Deconstruction (2013), Seung Wook Sim received the prize for sculpture. A pile of what looks like melted debris speaks to human desires and our need  to manifest these. For Sim, Man’s fascination to create is inevitably counterbalanced with the need to destroy, “We know that in order to make a new rule or start a process of evolution, the first action towards this would be the deconstruction of old things, deconstruction is a starting point of construction,” the artist said.

Installation view of the Prudential Eye Awards nominee exhibition at Suntec City, Singapore.

YUJI HONBORI, Asura, 2013, used cardboard boxes and other materials, 168 × 115 × 50 cm.

Absent from the ceremony were other category winners including Daniel Crooks, who won in digital/video, and Trent Parke, who won in photography. The 20 shortlisted artists are currently being exhibited at Suntec City in a show that includes Yuji Honbori, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Eric Bridgeman, Almond Chu, Lam Tung-pang, Irina Korina and Pussy Riot, among others.

The Prudential Eye Awards is the initiative of the Global Eye Program, a joint enterprise of Parallel Contemporary Art, a foundation established by the United Kingdom-based collectors Serenella and David Ciclitira, and Saatchi Gallery. It will be awarded annually in recognition of artists from across greater Asia, which, according to the Ciclitiras, includes Russia, Australia and the Middle East. But with the numerous Asian art prizes being established these days, what makes PEA stand out from the rest? “If you look at all the prizes that are now in the world, there’s not one that is an overall prize that encompasses such varied categories and countries. In the region there’s not an overall award in the way we have devised it,” says Serenella Ciclitira. Nigel Hurst of Saatchi Gallery added, “These awards help to highlight the breadth, range and diversity of the works being made in Asia. Other prizes tend to concentrate on China or Southeast Asia. I think this is the first prize that actually focuses on artist from greater Asia and provides an international platform that bridges the regions in Asia and the rest of the world.”

During the press preview on January 17, Eric Bridgeman flipped the camera on journalists.

JAMES JOHN DYCOCO, from the “2850, 59” series, photograph, 309 × 222 cm.

Alongside the main PEA, the title sponsor Prudential also supported artists in the host city with its newly launched 2014 Prudential Singapore Young Artist Award (PSYAA). Eleven students from Singapore’s two art-focused tertiary institutions, Lasalle College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), were nominated by their respective colleges. James John Dycoco from NAFA was chosen to receive a USD 10,000 scholarship for his photographic series “2850, 59” (2012). Dycoco profiles backdoors of shophouses located along Singapore’s Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, both popular entertainment areas, to bring up questions surrounding foreign talent in Singapore. Works by the five shortlisted artists of the PSYAA also joined the group exhibition at Suntec City.

Other awards presented during the Saturday ceremony include: Outstanding Contribution to Asian Art which was presented to Liu Xiaodong; Most Promising Asian Gallery, which went to Kuala Lumpur’s Galerie Chandan and International Asian Art Exhibition of the Year, which was awarded to the Singapore Biennale 2013. The latter received some skepticism as Tan Boon Hui, who sits on the judging panel, previously served as Singapore Art Museum’s director and was project director of the Singapore Biennale last year. Other nominees in these categories were never mentioned—drawing some criticism and calls for more transparency in the judging process. Nevertheless, strong works were lauded in the first edition of PEA, setting the bar high for future editions.

ALMOND CHU, Parade 5, 2008, archival inkjet print on paper, 155 × 187 cm.

Prudential Eye Awards exhibition is on view at Suntec City through February 5, 2014.

Sylvia Tsai is assitant editor at ArtAsiaPacific.