Yoshitomo Nara presents prize in Hong Kong’s inaugural Art Future Awards, launched to give young Asian artists a leg-up

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Coming in second were Xiong Zheng from Sichuan Conservatory of Music and Lau Jin-ki from Hong Kong Art School.

A scene from Erina Yoshimura’s “There is our horizon”. Photo: courtesy of Hong Kong Baptist University

Xiong’s installation, Wish of pebble, features rotating pebbles powered by electric motors, while Lau’s Chronicles of distortion is a stoneware and porcelain panel with overlapped photographs printed on it, distorting and deforming the images.

Artworks of all six of the shortlisted artists for the awards will be on show at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU)’s Kai Tak campus until January 14.

“Wish of pebble” by Xiong Zheng. Photo: courtesy of Hong Kong Baptist University

The new Hong Kong art award, co-organised by the Academy of Visual Arts at HKBU and cultural events promoter International Art Exchange, aims to provide young artists across Asia with an international platform to showcase their work.

More than 70 major art institutions across Asia nominated a maximum of two final-year students or recent graduates. There were a total of 119 submissions – from China, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The judging panel for the final round was made up of some of the biggest names in the region’s art scene, including Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, curators Hou Hanru and Zoe Butt, and artist and educator Kurt Chan.

“Chronicles of distortion” by Lau Jin-ki. Photo: courtesy of Hong Kong Baptist University

Janet Fong, an assistant professor at the Academy of Visual Arts at HKBU who was one of the people behind the awards’ creation, says the Art Future Awards adds another element to the art ecology in Asia and in the city.

“Hong Kong is very suitable to be the hub for Asian contemporary arts. We have Art Basel, we have auctions. We have already been known internationally as the Asian art hub,” she says.

“But what has been missing from the picture was a platform for artists who are not yet established and are in need of support and opportunities.”

Judges joined two panel discussions at HKBU, sharing their experiences and insights. Photo: courtesy of Hong Kong Baptist University

Hou, a veteran curator, says the careers of young and emerging artists develop differently today than they used to.

“Many galleries are now purely commercial places instead of incubators for young artists. It’s a very competitive environment, almost like a football league where artists jump from league to league. As they become more successful, they go to more commercially successful galleries,” Hou says.

“At the end of the day, we don’t expect the artists to be bankrupt. But if artists can have a little bit of faith in what they do, we can have less anxiety about things. We create anxiety for ourselves so things get unnatural.”

The inaugural Art Futures Award took place at HKBU on December 20, 2023. Photo: courtesy of Hong Kong Baptist University

Fong emphasises that the bigger goal behind the new awards is to give opportunities to young artists to see the works of, and connect with, their peers from other parts of Asia. All the shortlisted artists were invited to come to Hong Kong.

“I would not be the same person if not for the year I spent in Canada when I was young. I wish to provide similar chances to young artists,” Fong says.

Such experiences will help them build collective identities as Asians, she adds.

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