As 2020 draws to a close, we are moved to look back and reflect upon the cataclysmic events of the past twelve months, and to speculate on what lies ahead.
As a sector that is heavily event-based, the art world has faced its fair share of difficulties this year. Cancellations of exhibitions and fairs have left many galleries and museums looking for different ways to adapt.
For The Sovereign Asian Art Prize, already in its sixteenth iteration, it was a year of firsts.
This Prize was the first edition to receive over 600 submissions, marking a new record in its history. Works were entered from artists in over 30 countries, amongst them Tajikistan appearing for the first time.
Grand Prize winner Alex Seton became the first Australian to be awarded the title. To create his award-winning work Oilstone 05_Corrosion, he deliberately smashed, reassembled and prematurely aged 200 million-year old marble, accelerating the natural ageing process of the material and thereby challenging notions of its stability and permanence. The piece seems a fitting choice for a year that effectively exposed the fragility of trusted systems in the face of new and unexpected pressures.
Alex was nominated into The Prize by curator, researcher, academic Mikala Tai. He is the first of her nominees to have clinched the award.
For the first time, we presented a fully realised educational programme alongside a six-week long Finalists Exhibition, in partnership with K11 HACC, K11 ATELIER King’s Road, and K11 Art Foundation. Self-guided learning kits and an interactive education corner were offered to visitors of all ages, encouraging critical thinking and enjoyment through an art-based learning experience.
We also took steps into the digital realm – for the first time, live-streaming a day-long online symposium: ‘Art in Hong Kong: People, Place and Practice’, with the support of CoBo Social. Creating our first ever virtual tour of the exhibition, to ensure full accessibility to the public despite social distancing rules. And broadcasting our very first online international prize-giving, by presenting the winning artists with their awards through Zoom calls spanning Hong Kong, London, Indonesia, Dubai and Australia.
These feats, which at times seemed daunting given the unfavourable circumstances imposed by the pandemic, were possible due to the amazing support of our aforementioned partners, the never-ending resourcefulness and resilience of our team, the full support and cooperation of our judging panel, nominators and the talented artists featured in the show; as well as all those who came out to support it and share it online.
Finally, it was the first year we didn’t hold a fundraising Gala. Instead, we ran a series of small-scale collector tours and wine-tasting events in the space, which collectively raised over HK$1M for artists and our charitable programmes.
Despite the setbacks we have all faced, we are glad to have been able to carry though the Prize this year, providing publicity and support to artists who are producing important work.
We have many reasons to keep moving forward and hopefully, many more firsts to come.
Director of The Sovereign Art Foundation