Portfolio Magazine | Championing Digital Art in Southeast Asia

Portfolio Magazine | Championing Digital Art in Southeast Asia

09 Feb 2021 Gallery

Source: Portfolio Magazine, Issue 47, February 2021, pp 92-95.


After four decades of supporting art in Switzerland, Julius Baer bank is now launching its first art prize backing Southeast Asian digital art.

By Y-Jean Mun-Delsalle

Digital art is getting a boost with the creation of the world’s first digital art prize in Southeast Asia — the only art prize ever initiated purely by Zurich-based Swiss private banking group, Julius Baer. Named the Julius Baer Next Generation Art Prize and initiated by the bank’s Singapore office, it is dedicated to the art of our time, empowering young talents and expressions in Southeast Asia who create using the digital image.

After a long tradition of supporting the arts in Switzerland, Julius Baer, present in over 20 countries, has now set its sights on Asia, its second home market. Jason Moo, Head of Private Banking Southeast Asia and Singapore Branch Manager of Julius Baer, says, “The economic emergence and growing dominance of Asia is one of the most dramatic and exciting global phenomena of recent times. Southeast Asia, in particular, is a culturally rich and complex region filled with unique artists and we wish to spotlight them.” The prize is being launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the bank believes that art and creativity have never been more essential, with the crisis serving as a catalyst to further accelerate the adoption of the digital medium. “With the Next Generation Art Prize attracting talent from Southeast Asia, we are excited to play a role in developing the region’s burgeoning art scene and promoting a culturally diverse, technologically- oriented arts community,” Moo comments. “The focus on digital technology is a reflection of its increasing value as a conduit of business and leisure as the world shifts with the advent of the current pandemic.”

Julius Baer’s connection to art stretches back to 1981 when the Julius Baer Art Collection was established by Hans J. Baer (1927- 2011), who believed in supporting Swiss contemporary artists and that having art in the workplace was a great conversation starter, engaging both employees and clients. Today encompassing over 5,000 artworks ranging from paintings, sculptures, and photographs to videos, graphics and drawings, which are displayed in Julius Baer’s meeting rooms, staff restaurants, offices, foyers, and corridors worldwide, the collection features works by some of Switzerland’s most prominent artists, including John Armleder, Silvia Bächli, Sylvie Fleury, Lutz & Guggisberg, Markus Raetz, Pipilotti Rist, Shirana Shahbazi, Roman Signer, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Miriam Cahn, Ugo Rondinone, and Yves Netzhammer.

In early 2020, the collection expanded to include digital art. Barbara Staubli, curator of the Julius Baer Art Collection based in Switzerland, explains why contemporary art matters to the bank, “Art always reflects the time in which it is created. Contemporary art deals with the questions of our time and functions like a seismograph of society by visualizing the status quo, showing alternative paths or new ideas. The focus on contemporary art demonstrates our commitment to innovation and creativity.”

Consisting of Staubli, Indonesian art collector Dr. Wiyu Wahono, Singapore-based psychiatrist and Asian contemporary art collector Dr. Cheryl Loh, Audrey Yeo, founder of Yeo Workshop gallery in Singapore, and Inti Guerrero, a Manila-based curator and artistic director of Bellas Artes Projects, the five-member jury will select 20 finalists. They will be evaluated on conceptual insight, originality of visual expression and utilization of the medium. Yeo points out, “In times like these, where art is needed more than ever, it is heartening that Julius Baer has launched such an initiative to encourage artists who in turn can encourage others. Furthermore, focusing on the digital medium, which is accessible and has the potential to reach audiences far and wide, is a move that is future-forward. Art prizes form a part of the ecosystem that can support an artist’s career. Besides the prize money, it can also provide networking to market the artists. And artists can use it as a way to connect and work towards the deadlines to create a project to develop their skills and knowledge.”

"The prize is being launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the bank believes that art and creativity have never been more essential, with the crisis serving as a catalyst to further accelerate the adoption of the digital medium."

The competition is open to new works completed between 1 January 2019 and 28 February 2021 in digital painting, digital drawing, digital photography, digital print, digitally manipulated images, digital video, and virtual or augmented reality by residents of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam aged from 18 to 40 years old. The deadline for submission is 28 February 2021 and all entries must reference at least one of Julius Baer’s Next Generation investment themes based on mega-trends shaping the world around us that the bank has identified: Arising Asia, Digital Disruption, Energy Transition, Feeding the World, Future Cities, Shifting Lifestyles and Inequality, or Sustainability. With two categories of submission — still images (digital photography) and moving images (video art) — three winners will be selected from each category and receive a cash prize of US$15,000, US$10,000, or $5,000. Applications are being accepted now at juliusbaer.com/ en/spotlight/next-generation-art-prize.