Promoting Creativity

Left | The 2017 Sovereign Asian Art Prize Winner: Li Hongbo, Desire (metal, 35 x 10 x 1cm). Coutesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation; Right | The 2017 Sovereign Asian Art Prize - Public Vote Prize Winner: Yogie Achmad Ginanjar, ABSORPTION 7 (oil on canvas, 100 x 150 x 4cm). Coutesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.


Chinese Artist Li Hongbo Wins the 2017 Sovereign Asian Art Prize

The Sovereign Art Foundation is delighted to announce that Chinese artist Li Hongbo has won the 13th annual Sovereign Asian Art Prize. 

The Prize is Asia’s longest established and most prestigious award for contemporary art. Along with the title, Li Hongbo was awarded a trophy and USD 30,000 at the Foundation’s annual Gala Dinner and Auction on May 5 in Hong Kong.  The public’s favourite artwork was also recognised when Yogie Achmad Gianjar of Indonesia clinched the popular vote with his artwork ABSORPTION 7. Yogie was presented with the Public Vote Prize trophy and USD 1,000.

Li Hongbo impressed the judges with his artwork Desire, which is the first 3D work ever to be awarded the Prize. In Desire, an array of carved silhouettes - figures of little men - extend from the blade of a metal knife. Each figure runs in line, each following after the other, seemingly chasing for a mutual objective. The sculpture addresses society with a warning - that human beings will eventually destroy themselves with their gluttony and their abuse of animals. Desire aims to draw attention to the human behaviour of seeking to accomplish one’s own desires by overpowering other living beings; and signifies that reckless cruelty may lead to dishonourable consequences. 

Gary Mok Wai-hong, Hong Kong born artist, curator and long-time supporter of The Sovereign Asian Art Prize, nominated Li Hongbo into the Prize. An alumnus of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Gary is himself a former Sovereign Asian Art Prize finalist and has since 2009 has curated multiple high-profile exhibitions across Beijing, Hong Kong, Macau and Shanghai. 

To reach the final shortlist, a total of 66 independent art professionals from across Asia Pacific nominated nearly 300 mid-career artists into the Prize; resulting in more than 530 artworks entered from nominees around the region. A judging panel comprising world-class art specialists including Alexandra A. Seno, Head of Development at Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong; noted writer and curator David Elliott; Jim Supangkat, Indonesian sculptor, art critic and curator; Michael Snelling, former Director and CEO of the National Art School, Sydney; and Chinese new-media artist Miao Xiaochun shortlisted 30 finalists before flying to Hong Kong to complete the second and final round of judging in person.

This year’s shortlisted artworks spanned a variety of mediums and included a piece made from hand-carved jackfruit wood; a pair of intricately embroidered rugs, a steel cabinet containing seven tiers of chromed found objects and a paper work crafted using holes from over one hundred and fifty thousand individual needle piercings. 

Born in Jilin, China, Li Hongbo gained his MFA in Experimental Art in 2002 from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. Li Hongbo’s works have been exhibited extensively around the world and are included in a number of important public collections in Asia and beyond. This is Li Hongbo’s first nomination into the Prize. Of his win, Li Hongbo said:

“I am very honoured and would like to thank The Sovereign Asian Art Prize and the panel of judges for awarding me this prize. This achievement is a very big encouragement for me and will drive me to work harder. I have decided to donate all the prize money to good causes. I would like to donate 50% of the prize money back to The Sovereign Art Foundation, to help and support their programmes for underprivileged children across Asia; and 50% to the Jilin Normal University for the teachers training programme, so they can continue to spread their love and knowledge to the next generation.”

Howard Bilton, Founder and Chairman of SAF, said of the shortlist:

“We thought the 30 finalists were particularly strong this year. The judges agreed and scored the works accordingly. Comments from the viewing public suggest that they also especially like the finalists this year. The works are perhaps a little more accessible than last year. The proceeds of our auction will go a long way to help support our charitable work with disadvantaged children around the region.”

All finalists’ artworks, with the exception of the Grand Prize winner, were auctioned at The Sovereign Asian Art Prize Gala Dinner and Auction on May 5, 2017 at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. Auction proceeds were split evenly between the artists and SAF’s charitable projects. The Foundation currently supports programmes in Cambodia, Vietnam, Mongolia, Nepal and Sri Lanka as well as its own Make It Better (MIB) project, which works with children living in Hong Kong’s most socio-economically deprived areas.

The Sovereign Art Foundation announced at the Gala that it has been successful in securing a grant from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust to launch a three-year ‘train-the-trainer’ programme, which will begin in the second half of 2017 and will aim to train teachers in selected schools in Hong Kong to successfully integrate principles of expressive arts therapy into their classes, in order to better support children with diagnosed SEN and their classmates. The programme will be run in partnership with The University of Hong Kong (HKU) Centre on Behavioural Health. At least 20 local schools are expected to participate.

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