The 2020 Sovereign Asian Art Prize receives record number of entries

in Features

The Sovereign Art Foundation (SAF) Finalists exhibition is currently showing in Hong Kong and features 31 mid-career artists shortlisted for The 2020 Sovereign Asian Art Prize, the 16th edition of Asia’s most prestigious prize for contemporary artists. SAF is a charitable organisation that raises funds for programmes that support disadvantaged children through expressive arts. 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. 

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. 

Visitors to the exhibition and global audiences alike can vote for their favourite artist online, to win the Public Vote Prize, which will be announced on July 17, along with the winner of the Grand Prize. A virtual tour of the exhibition is also available online.

The shortlisted artworks are offered for sale through auction by Christie’s Hong Kong, with selected works available to purchase online. Proceeds will be split evenly between the artists and SAF, where they will be used to fund charitable programmes for disadvantaged children. SAF presents a unique model in many ways as the prize not only helps develop and support mid career artists but it also enriches the lives of disadvantaged children with the money it raises. 

In 2003, Howard Bilton, Chairman of The Sovereign Group (which was founded in Gibraltar in 1987), devised a plan to build a Foundation in Hong Kong that used art to fund and promote art programmes. The aim was not only to elevate the profiles of mid-career contemporary artists; but also help disadvantaged children living in Asia. To this end, Howard established The Sovereign Art Foundation (SAF) and consequently, The Sovereign Asian Art Prize. Of the current exhibition, Howard 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.

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.” 

The Prize and exhibition is supported by a programme of events, including an art forum and live auction. You can view the artworks, register interest and vote for your favourite artwork online at:

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