International art patrons gather in Singapore for Prudential Eye Awards

SINGAPORE - The inaugural Prudential Eye Awards was celebrated at a gala dinner held at the exhibition hall of Singapore's Suntec City in January.

Hosted by television personalities Nadya Huntagalung and Bobby Tonelli, the awards saw the attendance of Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, South Korean actor Ha Jung Woo and art patrons from the region. Minister Wong also welcomed the nominated international and local artists at the evening's reception.

Australian Ben Quilty was declared the overall winner of the inaugural awards and was presented with the prize of US$50,000 (S$63,000). He was also given the opportunity of exhibiting his winning work at the Saatchi Gallery in London later this year.

The Straits Times reported that the 40-year-old artist examines the theme of masculinity in his art. His intense painting style features the ink-blot Rorschach test technique which can be seen in his winning art work, Smashed Rorshach.

Hot favourites Russian punk-rock band Pussy Riot did not win any awards despite being the headlining nominees of the awards for their video Punk Pray (Mother of God, Put Putin Away).

The Business Times said that the results "showed the triumph of good art and good taste". It also speculated that the judges "were simply nervous" that the band, who are known for their sexually explicit acts, might "do something embarrassing on stage".

Members of Pussy Riot Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina told The Straits Times that they were not bothered at all with not winning. At the media conference earlier, they revealed that they will be focusing on the plight and rights of the prisoners in Russia's jails.

The two women served more than 21 months of a two-year term, reported Reuters, for the same nominated video which was a protest against Russian president Vladimir Putin and his government.

New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based video artist Daniel Crooks beat out Pussy Riot with his digitally manipulated video which features stretched and distorted imagery. A standout of the awards was Indonesian artist Jompet Kuswidananto, said The Business Times.

He won the installation category with his large work Cortege of the Third Realm which displayed a row of invisible horses fitted with saddles and loaded with musical-related items such as instruments and retro sound systems.

South Korean artist Seoung Wook Sim was the winner of the sculpture category with his "burnt" work, Construction/De-Construction. The Business Times said that his "harsh, all-black" sculpture offered a peek into a post-Apocalyptic world. Surprisingly light-weight, the art installation is made from paper, said the artist.

The Prudential Eye Awards was founded by art patron David Ciclitira and his wife, Serenella. It selected works for five categories - painting, photography, sculpture, installation and digital/video art. 20 finalists were shortlisted from over 500 submissions from around the Greater Asia region, including Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

Mr Ciclitira told The Straits Times that he intends the awards to be a yearly event, and might hold the second edition in Singapore again.

He said that since it is Singapore's 50th anniversary in 2015, it will be special to host it in its Golden Jubilee anniversary.

Guests enjoyed the evening celebrations with a performance by Italian singer and actress Serena Autieri, and an Asian-inspired fusion dinner prepared by Suntec featuring a main course of chicken ballontines and a molten chocolate cake for dessert.