In a dark room, two suspended video screens play images of rice paddies and derelict schoolrooms in rural Vietnam. Where one might expect to see adults, there are only children: working in the fields, resting in their dormitory, or studying soberly in the classroom. At times, children’s bodies are strewn across the agricultural landscape, leaving the viewer to wonder if they have died or are merely asleep.
This work of art, a multimedia piece entitled Tropical Siesta currently on display at the National Museum of Singapore, was announced the winner of the triennial Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize yesterday, winning Vietnamese artist Phan Thao Nguyen a grand prize of approximately $45,000.
The Signature Art Prize, a competition jointly funded by the Singapore Art Museum and Asia Pacific Breweries (APB), was established in 2008 to put a spotlight on contemporary artists in the region. Originally including submissions from only the countries in which APB had active breweries, the competition has expanded in scope to incorporate artists from most of Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Pacific.
Offering prizes totaling nearly $75,000, it is one of the most prestigious art competitions in the region.
With over 100 artworks nominated in over a dozen countries this year, the contest’s panel of five judges spent considerable time narrowing the pool down to just 15 finalists, whose works were chosen on the basis of creative use of material, originality, and strength of concept. All 15 finalists’ pieces will remain on display at the National Museum of Singapore until September.
“The thing about contemporary art is that it eludes attempts to pin it down and define it,” said Louis Ho, curator at the Singapore Art Museum, when discussing the challenge of nominating and judging pieces for the competition. “One of the things we look for… are works that deal with contemporary, sociocultural and even historical issues in ways that are thoughtful and considered, as well as a nuanced and innovative approach to materials and mediums.”
Read the full article by Robin Spiess on SEA Globe.
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