Honoring Three Asian Artists For 'Touching Our Souls' [Photos]

HONG KONG — Artists, art collectors, art dealers, and members of the Hong Kong business community packed the Conrad Hotel on Sunday to honor three contemporary Asian artists and kick off Art Basel Hong Kong, a week of major art events in the city.

The artists — giants in contemporary Asian art — were named “Asia Arts Game Changers” at Asia Society's 2016 Asia Arts Awards for their transformative‎ work in the field.

Cai Guo-Qiang, Nalini Malani, and Yoshitomo Nara, three very ‎different artists from China, India, and Japan, respectively, took home the honors for, as Asia Society Vice President for Global Arts & Cultural Programs Boon Hui Tan put it, “touching our souls.”

“Artists often feel isolated and uncertain,” said Ca‎i, who thanked Asia Society for its long-time support and inspiration, and said the honor “will encourage me to be more courageous in my work.”

All three artists have been showcased, often early in their careers, by Asia Society. Nara, whose fanciful — and sometimes unsettling — illustrations of children were recognized for being “the mirror image of ourselves,” has had major shows at Asia Society Museum in New York (Nobody’s Fool, 2010) and at Asia Society Hong Kong (Life is Only One: Yoshitomo Nara, 2015).

Malani, a “champion of the marginalized,” had her work shown at Asia Society Museum in New York as a part of Traditions/Tensions: Contemporary Art in Asia (1996) and in the one-person exhibition Transgressions (2014). Cai Guo-Qiang’s solo exhibition An Explosion Event: Light Show Over Central Park was on view at Asia Society Museum, New York, in 2003. His work was also featured in the Society’s groundbreaking 1998 exhibition Inside Out: New Chinese Art.

Guests at the Hong Kong event, which included Asia Society’s global board of trustees, also bid on works of contemporary Asian art, donated by the artists themselves to benefit Asia Society’s work. A standout was the painting Noble's Virtue by Chinese icon Pan Gongkai, who was also on hand for the event.

‎Beyond the celebration of today’s contemporary stars, the evening’s main theme was Asia Society’s role as a standard bearer for new artists. Said Cai, “Wherever Asia Society goes, Asia follows.”

About the Author

Profile picture for user Tom Nagorski
Tom Nagorski is Executive Vice President of the Asia Society. Prior to joining Asia Society he was Managing Editor for International Coverage at ABC News.