Prize raises eyebrows

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 10:14am

Artist duo Laurent Gutierrez and Valerie Portefaix, also known as the MAP Office, won the Sovereign Asian Art Prize last month after beating 29 finalists with a work that is more than seven years old.

Back Home With Baudelaire, No. 5 (2005) won the pair US$30,000 - the largest prize for the arts in Asia - and raised eyebrows in arts circles.

Sovereign Art Foundation's director, Tiffany Pinkstone, explains that each nominated artist can select three of his or her artworks.

Pinkstone says that the judges rate the works, and those with the highest score make it to the final. Each artist can only present one work in the final.

She says that nominated artists can choose a work from any period of time, although "usually they choose more recent works".

As this year's winner is from seven years ago, a re-evaluation of the procedure may be necessary. "We are always looking at how we can fine-tune the process. This can be brought up and discussed," Pinkstone says.

The panel of judges, chaired by British curator David Elliott, is dominated by Western voices. Along with Emi Eu, director of Singapore Tyler Print Institute, the panel consists of Tim Marlow, the director of White Cube, Philip Tinari, director of the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing, and Lars Nittve, executive director of M+.

Pinkstone says that some panel members, such as Tinari, have been based in Asia for a long time, and have a good grasp of what's going on in the region.

Pinkstone adds that in the past, Mori Art Museum's director Fumio Nanjo, Christina Chu, former chief curator of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and Kurt Chan, fine art professor at Chinese University, were among the Asian judges.

"As the arts scene changes, we try our best to adapt," she says.