The new rules for the United Overseas Bank Painting Of The Year have kicked in, but the winning work by German- born, Singapore permanent resident Stefanie Hauger, 44, has generated talk in the arts community that the rules might need to be tightened further.
Hauger, a former interior designer who became a full-time artist two years ago, snagged the South-east Asian painting prize worth US$10,000 (S$12,500) and the Singapore award of US$25,000 for her 170 by 170cm acrylic on canvas, Space Odyssey.
The painting attracted much attention at the awards ceremony on Tuesday night. Some guests looked at it for extended periods of time, others photographed it extensively and one guest was overheard saying it reminded him of British pop artist Damien Hirst's Swirl Paintings.
However, gallerists, artists, art lovers and collectors Life! spoke to had a different take.
Some questioned if the new rules for Singapore's longest-running and richest painting award worked, while others questioned the merit of the work.
The new rules for the contest's 32nd year aimed to level the field of competition so that artists of similar levels of experience can compete against one another.
Instead of the two previous categories of "youth" and "open", the competition is now divided into the "emerging artist" and "established artist" categories.
Hauger, a relatively unknown face in Singapore's vibrant visual arts circle, beat other strong regional winners in the established artist category, including prominent Indonesian painter Suroso Isur. This left some observers baffled.
Gallerist Benjamin Hampe of Chan Hampe Galleries said that while the award has made some positive moves this year with the new categorisation, "more rigorous selection criteria need to be applied to the established artist category".
"I feel that age and number of years in practice are a bit arbitrary. But peer recognition, including how other artists and arts industry professionals view the artist, and career milestones such as key exhibitions, inclusion in museum shows, awards and grants, are far more important. I think the award has some way to go to becoming a credible art award for truly established career artists," said MrHampe, 32.