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  • May 05, 2021

Winners of the Inaugural Julius Baer Prize Announced

Portraits of (from left to right) SHWE WUTT HMON, MARK CHUA, and LAM LI-SHUEN, winners of the first Julius Baer Next Generation Art Prize. Courtesy Julius Baer.

Photographer Shwe Wutt Hmon and filmmaking duo Mark Chua and Lam Li-Shuen have clinched the top spots in the newly launched Julius Baer Next Generation Art Prize competition, in the still-image and moving-image categories, respectively. The first-place parties will each receive USD 15,000. Second-place winners Robert Zhao Renhui (still image) and Khiev Kanel (moving image) get USD 10,000, while those in third place, Fajar Riyanto (still image) and Arief Budiman (moving image), will be given USD 5,000.

Picked from 204 participants and shortlists of ten practitioners, the winners’ entries touch on different topics. A researcher, photographer, and founder of the all-female Thuma Collective, Shwe was recognized for her photographic series I Do Miss Hospital Visit (2020), which pairs digital scans of the artist’s scars—accumulated over several surgeries for lifelong health issues—with images of withering flowers, old family photos, and CT scans to lament the inevitable breakdown of organic matter. Chua and Lam, collectively known as Emoumie, won for their surreal, black-and-white short film The Cup (2020), centered on the monotonous routine of a man with a coffee-brewing machine for a head as a metaphor for the loss of individual choice.

The runners-up projects are similarly diverse. Zhao’s black-and-white photo And A Great Sign Appeared (Thailand-Singapore) (2019) captures the unexpected appearance of thousands of Asian openbill storks in Singapore at the end of 2019, signalling ecological change, while Fajar trains his lens on the families affected by the gentrification of Yogyakarta’s heritage district. For films, Khiev’s Pineapple Eyes II (2021) features the artist staring back at surveillance cameras, surfacing insidious tracking technologies embedded in urban environments, while Arief compiles stories about the Petrus killings—extrajudicial executions carried out in Indonesia in 1982–85—through archival images. A virtual exhibition of the shortlisted works, curated by Louis Ho, will be online until June 30.

Launched in November 2020 by private bank Julius Baer, the Next Generation Art Prize is open to Southeast Asian artists, aged 18 to 40 years old, whose practices focus on the digital image. The adjudicators for the first contest include Barbara Staubli, curator of The Julius Baer Art Collection in Switzerland; Indonesian art collector Wiyu Wahono; Singapore-based collector Cheryl Loh; Audrey Yeo, founder of Singapore’s Yeo Workshop; and curator Inti Guerrero.

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