When the Swiss entrepreneur Uli Sigg first traveled to China in 1979, he hesitated to reach out to artists because he feared that making contact might get them into trouble with the authorities. But in the more than 40 years since then, he has assembled perhaps the world’s most important collection of Chinese contemporary art in close collaboration with China’s leading creatives. Ai Weiwei has said of Sigg: “However famous I become, he [Sigg] is the creator.”

The former Swiss ambassador to China is still working to help foster the careers of emerging talent today as the sponsor of the Sigg Prize, which gave its inaugural HK$500,000 ($64,000) award to the Hong Kong artist Samson Young earlier this month. An exhibition of the winning installation, as well as work by the five other shortlisted artists, is on view at the recently reopened M+ Pavilion in Hong Kong (which had been shuttered for months during the city’s lockdown).

The show could take on a heightened significance following the passage last week of a new national security law to suppress subversion, secession, and terrorism in the semiautonomous city, which local arts workers have warned will cause “incalculable” damage to Hong Kong’s status as an art hub. That status is particularly important to Sigg, who in 2012 announced plans to donate more than 1,000 works in his collection to M+, the long-delayed museum of visual culture that is finally expected to open in the West Kowloon Cultural District next year. So far, Sigg maintains that awarding the collection to Hong Kong was the right move – it will keep the artwork within China while offering the maximum freedom for display.

The inaugural Sigg Prize, which was awarded to Samson Young earlier this month, is an outgrowth of the Chinese Contemporary Art Award Sigg founded in 1998 to honour artists born or working in China.
Courtesy of Artnet News
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