May 06 2017

Li Hongbo Wins Sovereign Asian Art Prize

by Ysabelle Cheung

LI HONGBO, winner of the Sovereign Asian Art Prize, with his artwork Desire (2014) at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong. Photo by Ysabelle Cheung for ArtAsiaPacific

Beijing-based artist Li Hongbo, known for his honeycomb-structure paper sculptures, was announced as the winner of this year’s Sovereign Asian Art Prize at a gala dinner on Friday, May 5, receiving a trophy and USD 30,000. 

Li Hongbo entered the prize with Desire (2014), in which metal, pinhead-sized silhouettes of running people rise from an ordinary cleaver. Li’s entry was chosen from 30 shortlisted artworks by a jury that included Alexandra A. Seno, head of development at Asia Art Archive; independent curator and writer David Elliott, who serves as artistic director of biennials in Sydney, Kiev, Moscow and Belgrade; and Miao Xiaochun, artist and professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. “The work is talking about life and death,” Li told ArtAsiaPacific. “The man you see here is running from the beginning of his life and is always running, until the end.” Li donated half of his cash prize back to the Sovereign Art Foundation and the other half to this alma mater, Jilin Normal University in China. 

The finalists included Abdul-Rahman Abdulla (Australia), whose entry is a painted wood bust of a half-ape, half-man creature; Bui Cong Khanh (Vietnam), who carved out of jackfruit wood a sculpture of hooks and medals; Imrana Tanveer (Pakistan), who subverts traditional Western portraiture by erasing the faces of a woman and her companion dog; and Youki Hirakawa (Japan), whose Lambda print depicts stages of ancient pottery vessels in fragmentation. These artists were nominated by prominent art figures from their countries of origin, and their works were exhibited at The James Christie Room at Christie’s, Hong Kong, in mid-April, and then at The Rotunda in Exchange Square from late April through early May. The artworks were then auctioned off by Christie’s Asia-Pacific chairman François Curiel at the gala dinner, with proceeds split equally between the artist and the foundation. A total of USD 300,000 was raised. The winner of the Public Prize, or the Schoeni Prize, given to the artist with the most public votes, was also announced that same night: the Indonesian artist Yogie Achmad Ginanjar was presented with a USD 1,000 check and a trophy for his hyperrealistic painting of a punk rock biker entering an intricately patterned mosque. 

The Sovereign Art Foundation established the annual Sovereign Asian Art Prize in 2003, with the aim of giving artists in the region wider international exposure.

Ysabelle Cheung is managing editor at ArtAsiaPacific. 

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