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State of Art: 5 art prizes shaking up the culture scene

Last week, the local arts community was set abuzz when veteran multidisciplinary artist Tan Swie Hian revealed his plans to offer a S$10 million award for promising international artists. According to an interview with Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao, the 73-year-old intends to set up a foundation for the art prize, and appoint judges for it.

Tan — an award-winning artist who was conferred the prestigious Cultural Medallion  in 1987 — is also currently showcasing his art pieces at Anatomy of a Free Mind: Tan Swie Hian’s Notebooks and Creations, an ongoing exhibition at the National Library building. He is so prolific that he has two museums dedicated to his work: The Tan Swie Hian Art Museum in Geylang, and the Tan Swie Hian Earth Museum in China. His new prize is a welcome addition to the burgeoning art scene here, which, in recent years, has witnessed the emergence of large-scale fairs such as Art Stage Singapore and Singapore Contemporary. It also joins the ranks of existing accolades such as the Cultural Medallion and UOB Painting of the Year.

For art buffs and budding talents, here are 5 awards to look out for. And who knows, you might just be the next winner of one.

(Main photo credit: The Sovereign Art Foundation/ Jasmine-Victorina Lye Hui Li; Featured photo credit: Tan Swie Hian)

Tan Swie Hian award

Spearheaded by local artist Tan Swie Hian, this award recognises exceptional artists from around the world. The award ceremony will take place at Tan’s home in Geylang, and the winner will be presented with S$10 million, a gold medal and a poem. Details about when it’ll be officially launched are scant, but the artist is currently discussing his plans with lawyers.

(Photo credit: Tan Swie Hian)

Cultural Medallion

Considered one of the most prestigious accolades in Singapore, the Cultural Medallion honours individuals whose artistic efforts have enhance the local cultural scene. It was introduced in 1979 by the late President Ong Teng Cheong. Winners are given access to funds of up to S$80,000 to support their future endeavours. Prominent recipients include self-taught artist Koh Mun Hong, singer-actress Nona Asiah and theatre director Ivan Heng.

(Photo credit: Gallery NaWei/ Koh Mun Hong)

Young Artist Award

Launched in 1992, the Young Artist Award is aimed at nurturing budding art practitioners aged 35 years and below. This includes talents from various arts sectors including theatre, film, art and music. Recipients are presented with a trophy, certificate and a grant of up to S$20,000, which will go towards their future projects. Noteworthy winners include up-and-coming visual artist Alecia Neo, composer Chen Zhangyi and cinematographer Brian Gothong Tan.

(Photo credit: National Arts Council/ Alecia Neo)

UOB Painting of the Year

Founded in 1982 by UOB, this annual competition is open to established and emerging artists, and is believed to be the longest-running art contest in Singapore. From 2010, it was launched in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Winners are country-specific, and stand to win awards ranging from US$1,000 to US$25,000. One recipient will also be selected to attend a residency programme at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum.

(Photo credit: UOB Painting of the Year/ Carey Ngai)

The Sovereign Art Foundation Singapore Students Prize

Young, aspiring artists are given the chance to shine with this award, which was launched in January by The Sovereign Art Foundation. The latter is dedicated to promoting contemporary art in Asia, as well as using art as a platform to help the disadvantaged. There are two categories of prizes to be won — one for university and polytechnic students, and one for secondary school and junior college students. Each winner will receive S$1,000. The award ceremony was held at Singapore Contemporary last month.

(Photo credit: The Sovereign Art Foundation/ Zhu Ziyi)

Sara Yap
Deputy Director, Digital Operations (Asia)
Sara Yap is the Deputy Director of Digital Operations at BurdaLuxury, and a contributing writer to Lifestyle Asia’s dining and jewellery beats. When she’s not on the lookout for exciting new restaurants or bejewelled trinkets, she’s probably buried in a riveting read, or reminiscing the good ol’ days with her favourite playlist of ’90s boyband hits.