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Conversation  |  Founder, Global Eye Programme

David Ciclitira

In Conversation with
Laura Thomson
London, 12 June 2014

David and Serenella Ciclitira established the Global Eye

Programme in partnership with the Saatchi Gallery in 2008, with the aim of supporting emerging artists.

In 2009 the Global Eye Programme launched a series of international touring exhibitions and publications, providing emerging Asian artists with opportunities to showcase their work. To date, it has held 18 exhibitions worldwide including Korean Eye (2009, 2012), Indonesian Eye (2011), Hong Kong Eye (2013) and Prudential Malaysian Eye (2014). These exhibitions have been viewed by more than 2 million people.

The next initiative from the Global Eye Programme is START, a new art fair dedicated to young international galleries. The inaugural edition will be held from 26-29 June 2014 at the Saatchi Gallery in London.

Ocula talks to David Ciclitira about what started as a hobby and has turned into a global phenomena.

How did your relationship with the arts develop and what ignited your particular passion for contemporary art from Asia?

Together with my wife Serenella, we have been collecting art for many years; 23 years ago we established two annual awards at the Royal College of Art, London. The Parallel Prize for painting and the Serenella Ciclitira Scholarship for sculpture, which still provide valuable support for graduating fine artists.
Our passion for contemporary Asian art was set alight when we went to Karlsruhe and saw Termocline of Art: New Asian Waves. The exhibition brought together the works of more than 100 artists from about 20 Asian countries from Korea to China to Japan. An exciting and very comprehensive picture of contemporary Asian art unfolded before our eyes.

What instigated the creation of the Global Eye Programme and what is its fundamental objective today?

During our time in Korea we found little information on contemporary art and artists, either in English or indeed in Korean. In partnership with Standard Charter and the Saatchi Gallery we launched Korean Eye in 2009 and in 2012 Korean Eye2 with Prudential as a presenting sponsor. We have also held Indonesian Eye (2011), Hong Kong Eye (2013), Prudential Malaysian Eye (2014) and the Prudential Eye Awards which launched in January 2014.

The Global Eye exhibitions have become hugely popular events – you are now promoting contemporary art to the masses? Did you foresee that things would develop in this way?

At the start of a project there is hope for success and continued growth, but our main objective was to support and foster artistic talent and to bring lesser known artists to an international stage and audience. The reception that the Eye exhibitions have received has been very good and has proved that there is a keen interest in Europe for the art and artists from these new and exciting emerging Asian markets.

In January you launched the latest offshoot of the Global Eye Programme, the Prudential Eye Awards, to honor emerging artists from across Asia and the Pacific. What was the principal motivation in founding the awards?

The Prudential Eye Awards were the next obvious step in the evolution of the Eye brand – recognising the accomplishments of emerging artists throughout greater Asia. The inaugural Prudential Eye Awards took place in Singapore on 18 January 2014 at Suntec City. Our vision: to establish the Prudential Eye Awards as an international contemporary art awards celebrating and recognising emerging artistic talent from greater Asia.

Can you tell us about how the awards were organised – how artists were shortlisted, the judging process and prize categories?

For the selection process we selected nominators (experts in the field of contemporary Asian art) from around the world and asked them to nominate two Asian artists for each of the following five categories; digital/video, installation, painting, photography and sculpture. A shortlist of 20 artists were then selected to feature in the accompanying exhibition by a panel of seven judges.

The growth of the Global Eye Programme has been accompanied by a rapid expansion of arts infrastructure in Asia and much greater international awareness. In your view, what have been the most significant changes and what are your hopes for the future of contemporary art in the region?

The introduction of new and re-newed art events. These are signs that the region is going through an exciting transformation in terms of contemporary art. And they underline the heightened international focus and interest in the region. 

From March 27 to April 30, the most recent instalment of the Eye exhibitions, the Prudential Malaysian Eye, took place in Kuala Lumpur. How are countries chosen to take part in the Global Eye exhibition series? And how are the artists selected?

It really depends upon what is happening in the contemporary art scene in any particular country at the time.When it was decided to launch the Prudential Malaysian Eye and the Prudential Eye Awards, the art scene in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore were starting to explode.

Will the Prudential Malaysian Eye exhibition be touring internationally?

Selected artists from the exhibition will exhibit as part of START art fair at the Saatchi Gallery in London, in June 2014.

I understand you are working with the British Council to have the books and also the catalogues from the exhibition placed on the national curricula of the countries that have been part of the Eye programs. This must be immensely satisfying?

Part of our and Prudential's aim is to inform and educate students and to teach the younger generation to appreciate and to love art and also to help foster a new generation of artists.

Selected artists from the Prudential Malaysian Eye exhibition will subsequently go on to exhibit at the inaugural START art fair at the Saatchi Gallery in London in June. Tell us about the fair, why you have decided to launch it and what will set it apart in an already very crowded international art fair schedule?

The genesis of all of our projects comes from our desire to support and foster artistic talent. The fair provides the opportunity for gallerists to come to one of the world’s well known venues and to present their artists to engaged audiences. It’s also designed to provide a 'melting-pot' environment for gallerists and artists.

Additionally there is within the fair the Prudential Eye Zone exhibition art-works by Asian emerging artists. The exhibition features artists from the five Eye Programmes which have held to date eighteen exhibitions worldwide and been viewed by over 2 million people.

2014 is a big year for the Global Eye Programme? What’s next?

Since the successful launch of Prudential Malaysian Eye in March 2014, we have focused on START and on the next Prudential Eye Awards which will be held again in Singapore, January 2015 (they will be an annual affair).

Ben Quilty – the overall winner of the Prudential Eye Awards – will also be exhibiting at the Saatchi Gallery from 4 July to 3 August 2014. ― [O]

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