For the second edition of the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award, the brand extended its remit beyond mainland China. An independent panel of international directors and curators working in Asia were chosen for their understanding of cultural contexts and regional zeitgeist. Forty artists were whittled down to six, the criteria being their artistic response to their geo-specific Asian backgrounds. Artworks on display range from sculpture and installation, video art, painting and performance. 

Larys Frogier, director of the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, and chair of the Hugo Boss Asia Art jury explains, ‘I wanted to have a constant evolution. The challenge is to open mainland China, which often overlooks its neighbouring countries for Europe and America. The intra-Asian connections are really important if we are to build a strong Asian art scene and make the prize visible internationally.’

Myanmar artist Moe Satt slashed silk Burmese umbrellas and then inserted zips: ‘they’re broken but evolving, like my country’s society.’ He democratises symbols of erstwhile royal privilege because ‘umbrellas can now be used by all’.

Maria Taniguchi from the Philippines, explores art as the materiality itself, its place in time, in history and in our visual compendium. Her brick painting series demonstrates rigorous composition and technique while her sculptures and videos present a logical order and rhythm. ‘The work is about investigating the structures for making art. The video ‘I See, It Feels’ is a conjectural situation set up between a person and a scanner. The other video ‘Figure Study’ imagines a room in an artist’s mind and what kind of junk might be there; what sort of calcified elements might be in this fictional artist’s mind?

Another development from the last edition sees a series of lectures and studio visits taking the discussion to Beijing, Taipei, Manila and Yangon. Dr Hjördis Kettenbach, head of Hugo Boss cultural affairs says, ‘We want to promote the award and the artists, but we also want to debate with students and people in the art world. Not just another exhibition but an open dialogue.’

The winner will be announced on the 26 November 2015 and will receive a stipend of 300,000RMB to continue developing their artistic practice. For Frogier, the award must not appear laboured or seen merely as another group show. ‘We respect artistic autonomy. We don’t want to instrumentalise the artists to illustrate the prize. They must be challenged to make their own statement related to their own creations.’