Art award winners in payment limbo

Svay Sareth.
Svay Sareth.

Artists who won Prudential Eye Awards in January have not received prize money; organisers say payment was delayed by processing errors

The three-year-old Prudential Eye Awards, which is among the biggest art prizes in the region, have drawn flak from award winners this year who have not yet received their cash prizes since their wins were announced in Singapore in January.

The five winners had sent a letter to international arts publications last week saying none of them, except Cambodian artist Svay Sareth, had received their cash prizes of between US$20,000 (S$27,280) and US$30,000.

The other artists are Manish Nai from India, Shumon Ahmed from Bangladesh, Nguyen Trinh Thi from Vietnam and Huang Po-chih from Taiwan. Their wins were announced at an awards ceremony held at Marina Bay Sands.

Svay, who won two awards - Best Emerging Artist Award in the sculpture category, with a US$20,000 cash prize, and the Overall Best Emerging Artist Award, with a US$30,000 cash prize - says he received only half his total prize money last month.

The awards, which seek to recognise the best emerging artists in the Asia-Pacific, was founded by British-Italian art lovers David and Serenella Ciclitira, in partnership with Saatchi Gallery and insurance firm Prudential.

It is administered by Parallel Contemporary Art, a non-profit organisation founded by the Ciclitiras with the aim of supporting emerging artists.

The winners' letter said they had been told they would receive payment by a certain time, but the payment deadlines were repeatedly postponed.

Svay, 44, tells The Straits Times: "This is more than about the money; it is about respect for each other, for artists. They organised a huge red carpet event and the international press was there, but what does it mean?"

The director of the awards, Mr Niru Ratnam, tells The Straits Times that "all prize monies to the award winners of the 2016 edition have been transferred".

He adds: "There has always been a process of invoicing from artists and paperwork that takes some time. However, this year, there were delays."

He explains that the former finance director waited for invoices from all five artists to come in instead of dealing with them as they came in and he did not process the invoices correctly.

"As soon as the founders learnt of his administrative mistakes, they made moves to make sure the process got back on track immediately," says Mr Ratnam.

He adds that the awards will take place next year and it has been in "long discussions with three cities" and it "looks forward to working with one of them to host the awards".

Artist Shumon, 39, who won the Best Emerging Artist Award in the photography category, tells The Straits Times: "I truly appreciate the platform and their effort and I want to be hopeful that the money transfer will come. I hope this ends soon and everyone gets what they deserve."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'Art award winners in payment limbo'. Print Edition | Subscribe