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Civil Registration Service #3 (2017) by Saule Suleimenova.

Sovereign Asian Art Prize finalists show their contemporary works in Hong Kong exhibitions followed by charity auction

The exhibitions show the diversity of contemporary art in the region: with artists from Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore. What’s more, almost half of those chosen are female. Proceeds from the auction go towards an initiative that introduced impoverished Hong Kong children to art


An upcoming exhibition of this year’s Sovereign Asian Art Prize finalists, unbridled by any thematic concern and with impressive geographical reach, provides an insightful survey of contemporary art coming out of this diverse region.

Of the 30 emerging and mid-career artists (including one duo) shortlisted, most hail from countries or territories that are often overshadowed by the superpowers of the art world, and nearly half of the artists are female – a significant factor when women artists continue to struggle for visibility in commercial galleries.
Fumio Nanjo will be part of the judging panel for the Sovereign Asian Art Prize.
For the 14th edition of the award, a judging panel made up of Fumio Nanjo of the Mori Art Museum; artist Rashid Rana; Jan Dalley, arts editor of the Financial Times; Alexandra Seno from the Asia Art Archive; and writer and curator David Elliott; has whittled down a list of 328 artists nominated by 70 independent art professionals before they announce the winners at a gala dinner and charity auction on May 11.

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Five are Pakistan-born, two are working in Kazakhstan, and nearly a third are from Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore.

There’s the Snow Again IX (2017) by Chui Pui-chee.
The Hong Kong artists on the list are Li Tin-lun, who uses technology to discover new ways of seeing; Hung Keung, who explores Chinese philosophy using mixed media; and Wong Chung-yu and Chui Pui-chee, both dedicated to keeping the Chinese ink tradition alive and relevant.

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Local art lovers are likely to be unfamiliar with the artists from Kazakhstan, but they may well relate to the context in which they work (which has similarities to China’s): the rapid changes brought on by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the invasion of capitalist values and lifestyles, and living in a country ruled by an authoritarian president.

Steppe Wolves (2014) by Said Atabekov.
Said Atabekov’s shortlisted work is Steppe Wolves (2014), a stunning aerial photograph of the crowd before a kokpar game (an ancient sport that resembles polo, but uses a freshly-slaughtered goat for the ball).

Saule Suleimenova’s Civil Registration Service #3 (2017) recreates a scene of bureaucratic ineptitude with discarded plastic bags, a choice of material that is both a rebellion against state-sanctioned aesthetics and a comment on environmental degradation.

Acapella (2017) by Halima Cassell.
Acapella (2017), a bronze sculpture by Pakistan-born and UK-based Halima Cassell, reflects the diverse cultural environments that shape her practice: architectural principles, a love of music, Islamic and African art.
A Reader (2015) by Saima Rasheed.
A Reader (2015) is by Saima Rasheed, also based in the UK but brought up in Pakistan. This is from her “Creative Women” series and is a delightful painting of a woman absorbed in a book and ignoring the mess spilling out of her wardrobes.

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The exhibition is held in two different venues until May 10. The artworks will go under the hammer at the May 11 gala charity auction to raise funds for the Sovereign Art Foundation’s “Make It Better” project, an initiative that introduces art to Hong Kong children from impoverished neighbourhoods. The public can vote for their favourite work to win a US$1,000 public vote prize, which will also be announced on May 11 together with the winner of the top award of US$30,000.

Sovereign Art Prize 2018 exhibition, HART Hall, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Rd Central, April 26 to May 5, then James Christie Room at Christie’s, 22/F Alexandra House, 18 Chater Rd, from May 8 to 10.