Creative Australia to present newly reimagined Asia Pacific Arts Awards

The Awards will recognise the remarkable work of artists and organisations in a celebration of community and culture.
Man and woman dancing on stage with soft lighting. Asia Pacific.

The Asia Pacific Arts Awards are being delivered for the first time by Creative Australia in 2024 – as a key outcome of the National Cultural Policy. A previous iteration of the awards was held in 2013 by the Office of the Arts.

Zainab Syed, Director International at Creative Australia, tells ArtsHub that, after a 10-year pause, they were able to reimagine the Awards. ‘It felt really important to make this a celebration of community, as well as arts and culture.’

Rather than focus on art forms, the Awards fall under five categories: Impact, Innovate, Inspire (with one award for individuals or collectives, and another for organisations) and Connect. They also each carry a $25,000 award.

The awards are envisaged as a way to shed light on the remarkable work created by Australian artists and organisations through their continued engagement with the region.  

‘It’s really about bringing the work of these creatives back into mainstream consciousness,’ Syed says, adding that it is important to ‘come together every year to recognise the work that is happening’.

Celebrating innovative talent through regional engagement

There are 30 creatives in the running across all artistic disciplines. A full list of nominees has been published ahead of the ceremony on 23 April, at Sydney’s Riverside Theatres.

Syed says she’s excited by the mix of nominees. ‘It’s not one art form leading, and we’re seeing a lot of experimental art [making] across the nominees, which also points to the Asia Pacific region itself, where art is not typically delineated into categories, and where so much of the way that culture is consumed is through storytelling.’

Among some of the individual nominees is Rainbow Chan, who is currently showing work at the 8th Yokohama Triennale in Japan and performed at M+ Museum in Hong Kong; Hoda Afshar for her first major solo A Curve is a Broken Line at the Art Gallery of NSW; and curators Kimberley Moulton and Zoe Butt, who are both doing incredible cross-collection work and mentorships, from Tate in London to ILHAM Gallery in Malaysia and Foundation for Arts Initiatives in New York.

‘It’s also exciting because we have people who have been working in this space for a long period, like Annette Shun Wah and William Yang,’ says Syed, ‘and to see that legacy of a body of work, and that idea of eldership [is wonderful].’

Syed adds that the nominees are ‘not often the ones who are working in institutional spaces or with resources, but are really dedicated and committed to making sure they are telling the story of their community, or engaging in really sustainable ways’.

‘They’re building those peer-to-peer connections in a really robust and ethical manner.’

She continues that it’s also been important for the Awards ‘to be able to point towards a new generation of artists who are also working in this space, and often doing it quietly. And the other flip side is to see organisations that look towards the Asia Pacific region outside of the traditional one-off touring shows’.

Syed highlights the work of AsiaTopia’s incredible festival engagement, including the recent work Guai by Mindy Meng Wang and Monica Lim, and stalwarts like the Asia Pacific Triennial, in particular recognising its 10th edition, ahead of its return in November this year.

‘I think the other part is the work within the First Nations community and to celebrate that through the programming at the event, but also the shortlisted nominees,’ Syed tells ArtsHub.

In the past, there was an open call for nominations for the Award. Today, Creative Australia regulates the process, working with industry advisers who submit nominations, which are then assessed by the peer system.

Syed says that, after a 10-year pause, they had free rein to reimagine the Awards.

The event will break the mould of the sit-down dinner with speech after speech. Visitors will arrive to a red carpet event, which will lead into a Welcome to Country and opening dance performance by Lingalayam Dance Company. Guests will then enjoy an evening of digital artworks, live music across the theatres and a delicious range of canapé offerings in the outer courtyard of Riverside Theatres.

‘Food is such a huge part of the Asia Pacific community coming together,’ explains Syed. ‘The idea was to make sure that we’re highlighting food, music, décor and artistry from the region.’ The event will also include a spoken word artist and a curated Pasifika experience in the courtyard.

The awards night will take place at Riverside Theatres in Parramatta on 23 April.

On locating the Awards event in Western Sydney, Syed tells ArtsHub, ‘The Awards are not just about highlighting our work overseas, but also about acknowledging the pivotal role that the diaspora play in being conduits and connectors, and in the creating this work.’

In conclusion, Syed says, ‘All these people who are shortlisted, and so many others, are not doing it for the recognition, or the Awards; they have been doing this for years. It feels really incredible to be able to recognise them now.’

To learn more about the Asia Pacific Art Awards and the 2024 Nominees.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina