On November 1, the newly established Hugo Boss Asia Art Award went to Hong Kong artist Kwan Sheung Chi. In a ceremony which took place at Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum (RAM), the 33-year-old artist was recognized for works containing “against-the-grain criticism of the system” and which open up the possibility for “personal utopias,” earning Kwan a USD 48,000 prize.
The award adds to Kwan’s reputation as one of Hong Kong’s best and brightest young artists. However, speaking with ArtAsiaPacific, he assured that winning this accolade won’t be going to his head anytime soon. “Of course, I’m getting a lot of attention and probably many opportunities by winning this award. Besides having the cash prize, I’m still the same artist, I do not gain more talent by winning this award,” Kwan commented over email.
Along with the other award finalists currently exhibiting in the corresponding exhibition at RAM, Kwan presents Water Barrier (Maotai:Water, 1:999) (2013), an installation comprised of two 170-centimenter-high, white plastic anti-riot barriers filled with water diluted with one bottle of Maotai—a Chinese distilled white liquor that is commonly served at state functions. With this work, Kwan alludes to mounting social issues and the types of physical and ideological barriers that stand to prevent change.
Following the award announcement, Kwan instigated a second phase for the work, inviting members of the public to join in a renewed attempt at the barrier’s destruction. With the help of a randomly selected group of 16, Kwan successfully knocked his artwork to the ground.
Now that his installation is complete, Kwan is working on a new project that will debut in Hong Kong in February. Not wishing to lose momentum, the artist told AAP “I haven’t changed, it’s the environment that has changed to give me this opportunity. If I fail to keep up, it may eventually harm my practice. I’m trying to forget winning the award.”
An initiative of the German fashion powerhouse, Hugo Boss, the Asia Art Award is intended to recognize emerging talent on the continent and will be awarded annually to artists under the age of 35, whose career spans at least three years. Along with Kwan, the finalists—which this year were all based in greater China—were fellow Hong Kong artist, Lee Kit, photography duo Birdhead from Shanghai, Taipei’s Hsu Chiawei, Hu Xiangqian and Li Wei from Beijing and Li Liao who is based in Shenzhen.