Local artist Tan Swie Hian to set up $10 million global artist award

Artist Tan Swie Hian pictured in 2016 with his portrait of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo, titled A Couple (2014). Tan is setting up a $10 million award for outstanding global artists.
Artist Tan Swie Hian pictured in 2016 with his portrait of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo, titled A Couple (2014). Tan is setting up a $10 million award for outstanding global artists.PHOTO: ST FILE
Tan Swie Hian’s oil and acrylic painting, When The Moon Is Orbed, sold for 18.975 million yuan (S$3.7 million) at the Poly Autumn Auction’s Modern And Contemporary Chinese Art Evening Sale in Beijing in 2012.
Tan Swie Hian’s oil and acrylic painting, When The Moon Is Orbed, sold for 18.975 million yuan (S$3.7 million) at the Poly Autumn Auction’s Modern And Contemporary Chinese Art Evening Sale in Beijing in 2012.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Local artist Tan Swie Hian is setting up a $10 million award for outstanding artists around the world.

The move to set up the award out of his own pocket is said to be rare in the local arts and cultural scene.

The 73-year-old multidisciplinary artist is currently in talks with lawyers on setting up a foundation for the award, before he selects a committee of judges to pick the winners from around the globe, Lianhe Zaobao reported on Saturday (Feb 4).

The winner of the Tan Swie Hian Award will also receive a gold medal and a poem, in a prize-giving ceremony at the courtyard of the artist's Geylang home, which Tan told Zaobao "is the birthplace of Singapore's modern literary movement".

Tan, whose works have sold for millions of dollars at auctions, told Zaobao that the undertaking was one he must achieve before his death.

The internationally renowned artist, who has practised Buddhist meditation for 45 years, often contemplates existential issues.

Tan said: "To be able to donate for the public good - this may not be achieved through personal wealth alone. Only through Buddhist living and meditation can you hope to do so."

The Indonesian-born artist is known for his deftly executed large-scale works and counts poetry, sculpting, calligraphy and painting among the various art forms he embraces.

Tan, who was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 1987, has a strong following in China and has fetched record prices for his auctioned works.

In 2014, Tan's 60sec ink-on-rice-paper work titled Portrait of Bada Shanren (2013) sold for a record 20.7 million yuan (S$4.4 million) at an auction in Beijing.

It broke the previous record he set in 2012, when his oil and acrylic painting When The Moon Is Orbed sold for $3.7 million.

It is rare for an individual to furnish such a lavish award - art prizes are usually given out by organisations such as the National Art Council or Singapore Art Museum, or sponsored by private companies such as banks and businesses.