On November 14, the third edition of the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize opened its exhibition of finalists at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), which consists of 15 works from 13 countries—a geographical breadth that extends from Pakistan to New Zealand.
Organized by SAM in collaboration with the award sponsor, Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation, the triennial award recognizes contemporary artworks that were made in the past three years. This year’s finalists were selected through a three-day deliberation of 105 nominees by a five-member jury panel. The panel comprised directors from art institutions aross the Asia-Pacific region, including Susie Lingham (SAM), Pooja Sood (KHOJ International Artists’ Association, Delhi), Chris Saines (Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane), Luckana Kunavichayanont (Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre) and independent curator Feng Boyi. Criteria for judging were based on: strength of concept; innovative use of medium and material; technique; expression and form; artistic insight and interpretation; and imagination.
“The most important part of this prize is that it honors contemporary practitioners who are . . . We don’t use the word ‘emerging,’ but rather, ‘established.’ These are established artists who experiment,” said Lingham on an exhibition preview that took place on November 13.
Among the contending works are: Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen’s Pythagoras (2013), a four-channel video installation that draws its inspiration from the eponymous philosopher and mathematician, who notoriously lectured to his pupils from behind a curtain; New York- and Dhaka-based Naeem Mohaiemen’s Rankin Street, 1953 (2013), which uses a narrated video, vintage photographs, sandstone molds and blueprint drawings to share a rediscovered moment from his family’s history; Chinese artist Liu Jianhua’s porcelain water stains, entitled Trace (2011), which line the curved wall of SAM’s central stairwell; New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana’s In Pursuit of Venus (2012), a moving image piece that builds upon the panoramic, 20-panel wallpaper Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique (1804–05), which illustrates Captain James Cook’s historic expedition to the Pacific; Vietnamese artist Nguyen Trinh Thi’s video projections, Unsubtitled (2013), which comment on censorship in her country; and Indonesia performance artist Melati Suryodarmo’s I’m a Ghost in My Own House (2012), an installation that fills an alcove behind the museum’s statue of St. John Baptist de La Salle (1651–1719) with charcoal briquettes—objects that provide heat to sustain, but can also destroy, life—to convey a sense of loss and transformation.
When asked about the award’s influence on artists, Arin Rungjang—who is nominated for his piece Golden Teardrop (2013), which he had originally created for the 2013 Venice Biennale’s Thailand Pavilion—said, “This year’s selection of works are very good, and it’s quite rare in Southeast Asia to see a competition like this that includes so many installation works. The Signature Art Prize provides a good opportunity for artists to show their practice. I don’t see this as a competition but as artists sharing content.” Asked what he would do with the award money, Arin answered sheepishly, but without pause, “I would buy a house for my mother. That’s my goal.”
The candidates for the Signature Art Prize are up for four awards: the Grand Prize of SGD 60,000 (USD 46,000), two Jurors’ Choice Awards at SGD 15,000 (USD 11,500) each, and the People’s Choice Award of SGD 10,000 (USD 7,700). The award ceremony will take place at SAM on January 22, 2015. The day before the announcement, Suryodarmo will be staging her 12-hour performance I’m a Ghost in My Own House (2012).
The 15 shortlisted artists of the 2014 Signature Art Prize are: Owen Leong (Australia), Naeem Mohaiemen (Bangladesh), Liu Jianhua (China), Peng Wei (China), Ranbir Kaleka (India), Melati Suryodarmo (Indonesia), Go Watanabe (Japan), Lisa Reihana (New Zealand), Farida Batool (Pakistan), Ho Tzu Nyen (Singapore), Robert Zhao Renhui (Singapore), Choe U-Ram (South Korea), Yao Jui-Chung and Lost Society Document (LSD) (Taiwan), Arin Rungjang (Thailand) and Nguyen Trinh Thi (Vietnam).
The Signature Art Prize began in 2008 with the goal of organizing a total of five editions, ending in 2020. Past winners include painter Rodel Tapaya from the Philippines (2011) and Singapore installation artist Yeo Chee Kiong (2008).
“Signature Art Prize 2014 Finalist Exhibition” runs until March 15, 2015, at the Singapore Art Museum.
Sylvia Tsai is associate editor at ArtAsiaPacific.