Three emerging artists from Southeast Asia are among the finalists for the 2015 Hugo Boss Asia Art Prize (HBAAP), announced at the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) on 25 June. That’s a big departure from the inaugural prize in 2013 when only emerging artists from ‘Greater China’ were eligible.
The six shortlisted artists are:
Huang Po-Chih, born 1980, Taoyuan, Taiwan
Vandy Rattana, born 1980, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and
Yang Xinguang, born 1980, Changsha, China
Maria Taniguchi, born 1981, Dumaguete, the Philippines
Guan Xiao, born 1983, Chongqing, China, and
Moe Satt, born 1983, Yangon, Myanmar.
Three of the artists were present for the announcement: Yang Xinguang, a sculptor who often works in wood, Guan Xiao, a multi-disciplinarian with a BA in Directing, and the Philippines’ Maria Taniguchi, who completed an MFA at Goldsmiths, London, in 2009 and is concerned with art as material. When Ocula spoke with them after the announcement, all three artists expressed difficulty articulating how they fit into the contemporary “Asia Art’ world.
“It’s hard to say how you fit regionally,” says Yang, “because everyone is different. Good artists are distinctive.”
In addition to not being overly familiar with what other artists in the region are doing—the activity being much more diverse than the post-internet art she sees as dominating emerging artists’ activities in the West—Guan Xiao says understanding where she fits is made difficult by that fact that “there’s so much uncertainty in Asia, and around the world, right now.”
The idea of a prize for something as varied and subjective as art is inherently problematic, and the challenge of evaluating artists across a region as diverse and dynamic as Asia makes the task exponentially harder. To their credit, the prize’s administrators have elected to make the HBAAP a moveable feast. This year they decided to expand beyond ‘Greater China’ to support not only emerging artists but emerging art markets: Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines. Jury chairman and RAM director Larys Frogier said future editions of the prize would likely shift to another region, or even swap out the emphasis on place for a chosen topic.
Asked why they thought they had been nominated for the award, the artists had clearer notions.
“I think it’s because I address the conversation about abstraction, in painting in particular,” says Taniguchi, “and maybe some part of my work is in dialogue with Chinese works,” while Yang emphasised the "genuineness" of his creations.
According to Guan, “From what [painter] Duan Jianyu said when she introduced me, it’s because my practice is very different, and it can create new possibilities.”
The prize is awarded for the artists’ entire oeuvres, freeing them up to show audacious new works in the prize exhibition, yet all three artists are unsure what they’ll produce for the prize exhibition. “I really don’t know,” says Taniguchi. “There is an expectation for new work, though, and it’s interesting to be here to see the space.”
All six artists will exhibit in different parts of the museum simultaneously. Asked how they’ll decide who will show where, Tamiguchi replies, “I think it’s like The Hunger Games.”
Guan says, “This nomination came as a surprise. It’s going to be difficult to produce new work because I’m so busy—I’m totally dying—but sometimes pressure can be a good thing.” Asked if she thinks artists are given enough time to prepare work for the prize exhibition, she goes uncharacteristically quiet, breaks into an embarassed smile, and then finally let’s the word out: “no”.
Nevertheless, audiences can be optimistic about the show. Despite the constraints, the first edition of the prize, won by Hong Kong’s Kwan Sheung Chi, resulted in one of RAM’s best shows yet. The 2015 prize, worth 300,000RMB, will be awarded a month after the opening of the Hugo Boss Asia Art exhibition, which will take place at RAM from 30 October 2015 to 3 January 2016.
The jury for the 2015 Hugo Boss Asia Art Prize comprises some of the most influential writers and curators working in relation to Asia today: Larys Frogier, Director of Rockbund Art Museum (Chair); Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator, Asian Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hou Hanru, Curator and Critic, Artistic Director of MAXXI, Rome; Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Founder and President of the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director of Nanyang Technological University Centre for Contemporary Art in Singapore; Yuko Hasegawa, Chief Curator of Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, and Curator of 11th Sharjah Biennale; Arlette Quỳnh-Anh Trần, Curator and Writer based in Vietnam; Amy Cheng, Independent Curator based in Taipei; Doryun Chong, Chief Curator at M+ Hong Kong; Duan Jianyu, Artist based in Guangzhou; Heman Chong, Artist, Curator and Writer based in Singapore; Karen Smith, Executive Director of OCAT Xi’an, based in Shanghai; Li Qi, Senior Curator at Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, and Robin Peckham, Curator and Editor based in Hong Kong and Beijing.—[O]