CCAA was established in 1997 by Dr. Uli Sigg, the leading collector of Chinese contemporary art. Established as an independent non-profit entity, CCAA’s purpose is to give awards to Chinese artists and art critics who show outstanding achievement in artistic creation, and in its analysis and critique.
CCAA encourages their development and enhances awareness and appreciation to a wider public for what Chinese art contributes to contemporary Chinese culture. CCAA also promotes knowledge about contemporary art through publications and exhibitions that accompany the awards.
First time awarded in 1998 and then in two year intervals, the CCAA has since become an institution of significance for the Chinese art scene, with the CCAA winners becoming well recognized also by the international art world. CCAA has widely promoted Chinese contemporary art internationally and built a bridge between the Chinese artists and the international art world already at a time when contemporary art was largely an underground phenomenon in China. Essential for the success of CCAA are the high profiled jury members and the CCAA directors - international and Chinese in equal number – who have then worked into their own projects much of what they saw in the jury meetings.
Since 2000, Chinese contemporary art has been ever more reported, exhibited and collected internationally. CCAA considers it equally important to evoke more public attention within China. And at a time when Chinese art appears to be validated almost exclusively by market forces, an unexcited and deliberate reflection of the present art production such as CCAA provides through its exhibitions, publications and other activities, is very much in need.
To further balance these market forces and educate a rapidly growing audience that casts an eye on or is willing to invest in Chinese contemporary art, stronger institutional support is essential. One such ingredient in any developing art operating system is independent analysis and critique. To bring that issue more into public focus, the biennial CCAA Art Critic Award has been established in 2007.
Since the first awards in 1998, CCAA has continuously developed its format. Currently there are three CCAA categories for artists: Award for Life Time Achievement, then Award for Best Artist and Award for Best Young Artist (both judged for their accomplishments in the two year interval between awards ).
The winners of these awards are provided with a mix of price money, a production budget or opportunity for an exhibition and a catalogue.For the winner of the Art Critic Award funds are provided for research of a specific topic selected by an expert jury, and for a subsequent publication of this research.
Uli Sigg, born 1946, grew up in Switzerland. He completed his studies with a Ph.D. in law. He then worked as journalist and editor for various Swiss newspapers and magazines. From 1977 to 1990 he joined the Schindler Group where he held positions as Area Manager for Asia Pacific and later Member of the Group Executive Committee and Shareholders Board. He established in 1980 the first Joint Venture between China and the West and remained its Vice Chairman for ten years. He then served on the boards of a number of global companies till 1995 the Swiss federal government appointed him for four years ambassador to PR China, North Korea and Mongolia. Upon his return to Switzerland he again assumed the chairmanship or board membership of several multinational companies. Presently he also serves as member of the Advisory Board of China Development Bank and other Chinese entities.
He spent altogether many years in China, following the opening up of China and its contemporary art scene from day one. As collector of formerly Western contemporary art he has formed the most substantial collection of contemporary Chinese art in the world.In 2012 he donated 1463 works and sold 47 works to M+ Museum in Hongkong. He also established 1997 the Chinese Contemporary Art Award, an art award for Chinese contemporary artists and for art critics. He is a member of the International Council of New York MOMA and member of the executive committee of the International Advisory Council of Tate Gallery, London.
"It is hard to imagine in today's hype: When I established CCAA in 1997, Chinese contemporary art was still a kind of semi-underground phenomenon, known to few - inside and outside China. At that time my purpose was to give encouragement to artists with particular talent, to enhance awareness of a largely uninterested Chinese public and to bring prominent international curators to the Chinese art scene they largely ignored ... and thus to give an impulse to the nascent art operating system of China. In 2007 I added the CCAA Critic Award.
The CCAA awards have since greatly contributed to the fundamental changes in the perception and to the success of Chinese contemporary art in China and abroad.
Still, the debate as to what constitutes meaningful art in China and what does not, remains at the core of the CCAA activities. Particularly at a time when the market is the dominant force to validate artworks, an institution such as Ihe CCAA plays an important role. To balance and to enrich this debate, the controversy brought about by CCAA's choices is highly desirable.Ultimately this debate should be owned by Chinese.Therefore I am very happy that CCAA is now supported by M+ Museum in Hongkong, and will hopefully be joined by other institutions from China."
The selection of CCAA is based on jury judgment. It invites a director to hold and to guide through the work every two years, among others, to set up a nominating committee of 6 leading critics and curators, who, very familiar with Chinese contemporary art, nominate over 60 artists. In the end 7 world-renowned museum directors, curators and collection consultants make up a jury to select the winners.
CCAA Critic Award is hold every two years. CCAA committee sends out open call to public, participants need to submit a 3000-word proposal that has never been published. CCAA staff will review and translate submitted proposal, and submit to the jury committee who will select one Critic Award winner among the participants.
▶ Best Artist
To award contemporary Chinese artist showing extraordinary creativity in the past two years.
▶ Best Young Artist
To award contemporary Chinese young artist under the age of thirty showing extraordinary creativity
in the past two years.
▶ Contribution Award
To award the artist with continued effort in creation and outstanding contribution to contemporary art
in China over a long period.
CCAA offers one Critic award as a permanent prize in biennial selection, and sets the Special Nomination as a nonpermanent prize.
CCAA take the form of prize money, exhibition and publication. The prize money for Best Artist Award and Best Young Artist Award are $10,000 and $3,000 respectively.
CCAA will offer 10,000 Euros to the winner of Critic Award as research funding, supporting them to finish writing of a book based on the awarded proposal in the period of one year, and the book will be published by CCAA.
JURY MEMBERS' STATEMEN
Alanna Heiss（2002-2004 CCAA Jury）
I have served on many art awards juries over the years, and I am always surprised by the way in which each such experience can open up a new perspective. Being in the position of juror tests my own defini- tions and conceptions of art production, urging me to identify both what strikes me on a more personal level as well as where and how I can situate a body of work in relation to an ever growing artistic and historical context.
Carolyn Christov-Bakagiev（2012 CCAA Jury）
To join the Chinese perspective with the global perspective in a fruitful way is the greatest contribution CCAA makes to art.
Chris Dercon（2006-2014 CCAA Jury）
To me the process of CCAA jury meeting is a reconnaissance. It has been really an exploration and discovery of Chinese contemporary art.
Feng Boyi（2012 CCAA Jury）
The significance of CCAA lies in its addressing of needs that are specific and pertinent to the chinese art world. It’s conductive to contemporary art in China, particularly the growth of experimental young artists.
Harald Szeemann（1998-2004 CCAA Jury）
The first Post-Mao pop generation of contemporary Chinese artist either cultivated a distinctly Chinese subversive art practice ormeasured itself against Western standards of monumentality or iconography by way of redefinition. From a Western point of view, the latest generation of Chinese artists is more adapted. One may lament this but it seems to be the way history unfolds.
Hans-Ulrich Obrist（2013 CCAA Jury）
I think this is the idea of what CCAA is about, not just being an award, now also being a space, being a meeting place, a place where gatherings happen but also-last but most- being a book machine. I think the idea of being a book machine is very interesting. So now I would like to say happy birthday to CCAA and many congratulations on your great work.
Huang Zhuan（2012 CCAA Jury）
It impresses me with passionate debates with an underlying precision. An award like CCAA is really needed.
Lars Nittve（2011-2012 CCAA Jury）
CCAA contributes an overview of what is happening at present in Chinese contemporary art.
Li Zhenhua（2012 CCAA Jury）
The greatest contribution of CCAA lies in serving as a bright between Chinese contemporary art and the global reality of contemporary art production and in its contextual diversity of their participants on the global level.
Pi Li（2002, 2006-2008 CCAA Director）
The fundamental goal of the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards (CCAA) is not completely determined by different perspectives on art in order to create value judgments' but it is a platform for understanding artists and their works so that people may participate this ongoing dialogue. The jury committee in China engages in a discussion with jury members abroad, as well as artists and curators, to provide an effective channel to understanding Chinese contemporary art.
Ruth Noack（2008，2010 CCAA Jury）
I have a lot more to learn about Chinese contemporary art, but what I have already taken home is the realisation that we all need not only to learn, but to unlearn. It is encouraging, that some people are much farther along in this process than I am.
Uli Sigg（CCAA Founder）
I do hope that CCAA can more and more play the role I originally intended when creating it, and it’s a very well on its track by this expansion mode. I hope thay we all successfully had more rewards, we see rewards as being tools to help for the development of Chinese art operation system. In that sense I see a task for CCAA and I see ourselves fully equipped to fulfill the task.
Yi Ying（1998 CCAA Jury）
It might come as something of a surprise that the first CCAA awards were given to three young artists whom, to date, have had little impact on the art world within China. This was, in fact, the aim of the CCAA Association in establishing this award, and because the specific focus of CCAA activities is on young artists, the jury's final choice can be taken as representative of the wide-ranging trends within Chinese contemporary art. In this way, the jury's choice of artists for this first award should be regarded as a success for CCAA Association.
Should contemporary ink painting follow its tradition or have a more contemporary take? Should a prize be given to an artist that has solid existing work or an artist with some signals showing he has more potential in the future? Does the place where artist live and work have an impact on the meaning of his work and how is that reflected in his work? These are all questions appeared in the jury's discussion during the selection of this year's winners. Feng Boyi, artistic director of He Xiangning Art Museum in Shenzhen, explained that there is no standard for the jury to follow, but two aspects are most important: experimentation and exploration. Both are neutral, having less to do with politics and economics and more to do with work itself. Feng refers to two levels of experimentation. First is the ability to innovate within traditions. Second is the breaking of boundaries between disciplines, going beyond different forms and media, which can be subversive and extremely subtle. The characteristics indicate a trend for the future development of contemporary art.
As a matter of fact, what is important is not the award itself but the fact that the award and the exhibition carry great positive energy for public communication in respect to contemporary art. The award is not meant to place the winners in the limelight; rather it means that after long struggle and great effort they have finally got recharged to work full of drive. More importantly, to give an award is not a simple and repetitive job because the selection is like a trip of discovery, as the new findings in contemporary art in CCAA 2012 showed. The selection this year bring us to the realization, or confirms our impression that contemporary art in China is keeping distance from such stance as “art ought to be commercialized and become more cynical and ironical”. It is getting increasingly open and responsive to global issues that are closely related to one another and interpret our current world together, including its conflicts, discrimination, inequality, ecological crisis and other sharp contradictions.
—— Art Semimonthly Chinese Art Today
The selection criteria is always the primary focus of Uli Sigg, founder of CCAA. He holds that there are two types of criteria: one is stable, including originality, and the other is mobile, as the context of Chinese contemporary art is becoming more and more complicated, the material is getting richer and richer, so the judges have to make adjustment according to the complexities. Taking both into consideration, CCAA includes not only representative curators and critics in contemporary art in China but also worldly renowned critics — cultural and contextual conflicts became inevitable in the selection when judges from different cultural background and institutions met.
In the past 15 years, CCAA has received acclaim and sparked off debates that are no doubt centered on its guiding criteria and selection process. When asked if she had thoroughly studied the candidates, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev replied, “I’ve studied neither too much nor too little, and there should be a balance. We evaluate the potential an artist shows and the exploration of such possibilities deserves the award.” Feng Boyi emphasized that the selection is a combination of “inside observation” and “outside observation”.
Talking about the changes in CCAA’s external conditions and its adherence to the internal value, Sigg said, “that something changed and something remains. On one hand, the context of contemporary art is getting more and more complicated. In addition to native Chinese artists, more and more artists of international background are coming onto the scene. As their career develops, the conditions for their production will get very complicated. On the other hand, CCAA always encourages originality, conscience and professionalism in art production, which will never change.”
The selection of these three artists may signal a new interest in Chinese media, performance and conceptual art over the typically sought after paintings by established cynical realists.
CCAA is an important art award that showcases talents in contemporary art in China. Established by Chinese Contemporary Art Association and Uli Sigg in 1997, CCAA is a biennial award to honor accomplished contemporary artists in China. This project is aimed to offer an international platform for young artists and their works, as well as to introduce innovative Chinese artists to the world.
——AC (Art China)
Contemporary art in China was half hidden from the public When Uli Sigg started the CCAA in 1997, but today it has become one of the most discussed topic in the art community in China. There are some changes in the award, either by design or accident — an old bottle with new wine is proved to be stronger. As shown in 2008, CCAA was awarded to an artist from Taiwan. Moreover, the first art critic award was directed at academic discussion of contemporary art in China on a deeper level. These changes for diversity and pluralism will undoubtedly benefit Chinese contemporary art greatly.
——21st Century Business Herald
CCAA Critic Award is designed to establish an award system of public trust that will draw rational public attention to contemporary art in China, balance, as well as enrich discussions in this respect. In Sigg’s words, it tries to set up a platform to “help to accelerate independent art criticism”. It is worth noting that this award is not directed at the downstream of the project of writing, that is, an award given to the author of a finished text; rather it gives support to valuable research-orientated writing at the upstream. Highlighting that the selection of CCAA was independent and it has nothing to do with his private collection, Sigg pointed out that CCAA ought to be based on nothing but scholarship, so what the judges value most about a proposal are to what extent it is contemporary and important to the Chinese context, whether there is methodological innovation and originality in relation to language, subject, and perspective.
This year’s jury attests to the rapid growth of CCAA. The jury consists of Hou Hanru, Director of Exhibitions and Public Program, San Francisco Art Institute, Ken Lum, a Canadian artist of Chinese heritage, winner of Guggenheim Fellowship, Chris Dercon, Director of Haus der Kunst in Munich, Gu Zhenqing, curator and critic, and Huang Du, who, from their own perspective, all evaluate the candidates, their originality in particular, in order to identify the artists who are independent of the business world and rich in experimental spirits.