Singaporean artist Mr Yeo Chee Kiong has been awarded the Grand Prize for the inaugural Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation Signature Art Prize organised by the APB Foundation and Singapore Art Museum (SAM).
His winning artwork, A Day Without A Tree, is a mixed media installation that transformed the brick and plaster columns of the National Museum’s rotunda into a ‘living body’ experiencing the devastating effects of environmental change. In a world without trees, global warming has melted the solid forms of the building into a white fluid.
Yet the slippery white fluid is also a visual pun and tongue-in-cheek reference to the notion of ‘spilt milk’, particularly within the confines of a building which houses and protects artefacts and works of art.
Upon learning that he had been awarded the Grand Prize, Yeo said, “The Signature Art Prize is definitely a significant award as it marks the growing importance of contemporary visual art practice in the Asia Pacific region. Winning the award is certainly the highlight of my career. I feel very happy and encouraged.”
Yeo’s artwork was selected as the winning entry from 10 artworks that had been shortlisted from the original 34 nominations from 12 countries. The other shortlisted artists are from Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
Four other artists were also presented awards. The three Juror’s Choice Awards, each worth SGD 10,000, went to Malaysian artist Mr Ahmad Fuad B. Osman for Recollections of Long Lost Memories, Chinese artist Mr Zheng Bo for Karibu Islands and Indian artist Mr G.R. Iranna for Wounded Tools. The SGD 10,000 People’s Choice Award went to Mongolian artist Mr Davaa Dorjderem for his Voice in the Space, which received the most number of public online and onsite votes.
The awards will be formally presented to the artists by Mr Raymond Lim, Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, at a gala dinner at the Raffles Hotel this evening.
The distinguished international jury included Henri Chen KeZhan, one of Singapore’s most established artists and a pioneer in contemporary Chinese painting; Simon Israel, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation; Kwok Kian Chow, Director of the Singapore Art Museum; Dr Apinan Poshyananda, Director-General of the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, Ministry of Culture, Thailand; Professor Xu Jiang, President of the China Academy of Art, People’s Republic of China; and Wonil Rhee, who has extensive experience in Media and Asian Contemporary Art and is Co-curator of the 3rd Seville Biennale which opened on 2 October and ends on 11 January 2009.
“The 10 shortlisted artworks were each impressive in their own right and it was difficult deciding which to award the Grand Prize. In the end, the jury felt that Yeo Chee Kiong’s A Day Without A Tree represented the best original artistic interpretation of concept combined with a creative use of media and material,” said Dr Apinan Poshyananda.
The APB Foundation Signature Art Prize is a hallmark of distinction that will be awarded triennially to artists whose work represents a significant development in contemporary art. The award series is the result of a 15-year partnership announced in October 2007 between SAM and APB Foundation to develop and promote contemporary visual art in the Asia Pacific region. The award is funded by a SGD 2.25 million sponsorship from APB Foundation.
Mr Simon Israel, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation said, “The Signature Art Prize is our first contemporary art sponsorship of this scale. We are extremely pleased with the way it has progressed.”
“In the last few months I and the other members of the jury have been reviewing the artworks nominated for the inaugural Signature Art Prize and we were very excited to see the breadth and scope of the artworks in terms of mediums and subjects.
This augurs well for this art prize series which we hope will become the premier juried prize for contemporary art in the region. The success of this inaugural art prize has led us to decide to open it to all countries in the Asia Pacific region in 2011,” he continued.
Mr Kwok Kian Chow, Director of the Singapore Art Museum added, "Thanks to APB Foundation's generous sponsorship, the Singapore Art Museum has been able to take the lead in organising an award programme to recognise emerging contemporary artists in the Asian region. The quality of the artworks nominated for this inaugural Signature Art Prize augurs well for the series which will be sustained over the next 15 years."
The 10 shortlisted artworks can be viewed at the Singapore Art Museum.