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The Sovereign Art Foundation (SAF) announced the names of 31 mid-career artists shortlisted as finalists for The 2020 Sovereign Asian Art Prize, the 16th edition of Asia’s most prestigious prize for contemporary artists. Launched in 2003, SAF is a charitable organisation that raises funds for programmes that support disadvantaged children through expressive arts. In tandem with SAF’s year-round fundraising initiatives, The Prize is now recognised as one of the most coveted annual awards in the region with a Grand Prize of US$30,000. Nurturing talent from across Asia Pacific, The Prize has acted as a springboard to help artists go on to achieve record prices as well as gain invaluable exposure to wider audiences.

Finalists for the 2020 Prize hail from 18 countries and regions across Asia-Pacific, of which Hong Kong has the strongest representation with 4 artists shortlisted, followed by South Korea and Indonesia with 3 artists each. Amongst the shortlist are 13 previous finalists of The Prize, who have opted to participate again. The winner of the Grand Prize, along with finalists to be awarded a Public Vote Prize of US$1,000 (decided through public votes online and at exhibition) and the Vogue Hong Kong Women’s Art Prize of US$5,000 (awarded to the highest scoring female finalist), will be announced in May 2020.

This year, over 600 entries from 30 countries and regions were submitted, marking the largest number of entries in the award’s history. A board of 88 independent arts professionals - mostly curators and academics who work closely with artists in their respective regions - nominated 400 mid-career artists into The Prize. The 31 finalists were shortlisted by a panel of five world-class art specialists, namely; writer, curator, and museum director David Elliott, Arts Editor of Financial Times Jan Dalley, art historian, curator, writer and art strategy consultant Jiyoon Lee, artist and Professor at Central Academy of Fine Arts Miao Xiaochun, and contemporary Chinese artist Zhou Li.

Chair judge David Elliott commented on this year’s shortlist: "The winner of The 2020 Sovereign Asian Art Prize will be chosen from the largest submission ever. Many congratulations to all those who have participated, as well as to the international team of Executive Directors Howard Bilton [Chairman], Tiffany Pinkstone, Amy Cadman Non-executive Directors Angela Mackay, David Legg, Esther Heer, Levina Li, Peter Siembab, Tony Tyler nominators, who have ensured that the entries this year encompass an unprecedentedly wide span. Here, the numbers speak for themselves: the finalists have been chosen from 611 submissions and originate from 18 different countries and regions. Most strongly represented is Hong Kong, followed by South Korea and Indonesia in the top three. As would be expected, the growing number of submissions ensures a high calibre and wide range of work by the finalists, and I have no doubt that this exhibition will present a stimulating and revealing picture of art in Asia today."

The shortlisted artworks are offered for sale through auction by Christie’s Hong Kong, with selected works available to purchase online and at the exhibition. Proceeds will be split evenly between the artists and SAF, where they will be used to fund charitable programmes for disadvantaged children.

This group of artworks may be the strongest we have ever had. - Howard Bilton, Founder and Chairman of SAF

Howard Bilton, Founder and Chairman of SAF, said: “This group of artworks may be the strongest we have ever had. We ask nominators to send us the very best mid-career artists working in their country today, this guarantees artwork of extraordinary quality and means that instead of asking for donations, we can give our supporters an opportunity to buy investment-quality art. Most of the funds raised from the sale of these artworks will be applied locally towards our Make It Better (MIB) programme - an initiative that supports children from low-income backgrounds and with special educational needs in Hong Kong – adding to a substantial grant received from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust in 2017, and allowing us to build further on this valuable work.

We are surprised and a little outraged that in one of the richest cities in the world, one person in every five lives below the official government poverty line. There is huge wealth disparity in Hong Kong and this gap needs to be narrowed. We cannot solve this problem on our own, but that will not stop us from trying to make things better. Results of a study conducted by The University of Hong Kong indicate that the MIB programme has a significant positive impact on the children who take part. We hope that our generous supporters will share our beliefs and once again help us raise enough to make a difference.”

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