Over the past four decades, UOB has been championing Southeast Asian art and artists through its annual art competition—the longest-running in Singapore and one of the region’s most prestigious

When it comes to the history of art, the Italian Renaissance was one of the most important periods defined by the revival of philosophy, literature and art—and the Medici family was at the centre of it all. The Italian banking family was renowned for their patronage of the arts, supporting Renaissance masters including Botticelli, Da Vinci, and Michelangelo. It was during this time that some of the greatest works of art were produced.

One cannot deny the importance of arts patronage and philanthropy when it comes to the development of the arts. One such patron of the arts in the region is UOB. In the 1970s, the bank started collecting paintings by Singapore artists, which has since grown into the UOB Art Collection to include more than 2,500 artworks by established and emerging artists in Southeast Asia.

UOB’s long-term commitment to the arts is well documented through its Painting of the Year (POY) competition, which will reach its milestone 40th edition this year. The annual art programme, which was started in 1982, is Singapore's longest-running annual art competition and one of Southeast Asia's most prestigious art awards.

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“Over the last four decades of the UOB POY competition, our POY artists have opened eyes and minds to new worlds and encouraged conversations and connections. Their imagination and creativity have helped broaden our world views and fostered a deeper appreciation of other cultures and perspectives,” said Wee Ee Cheong, deputy chairman and CEO of UOB. 

“Just as UOB has been supporting the responsible growth of Asean’s businesses over the decades, we remain committed to nurturing the next generation of artists as they continue to push the boundaries of creative expression.”

Here’s what you need to know about UOB Painting of the Year competition and what to expect during this milestone 40th year.

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It has helped uncover more than 1,000 artists across the region in the past four decades

From Goh Beng Kwan—who won the first competition in 1982—to the late Anthony Poon (1983) and Chua Ek Kay (1991), many of the winners have gone on to define Southeast Asian art.

Goh said, “Winning the UOB Painting of the Year was one of the most important, life-changing moments in my career as an artist. As a result, I was invited to participate in many local and overseas exhibitions. This gave me the opportunity to develop further as an artist, as well as interact and learn from other Southeast Asian artists. It also led to my artworks gaining tremendous recognition. Winning the award was what encouraged me to be a full-time artist.”

Goh, Poon and Chua were also recipients of the Cultural Medallion, Singapore’s highest honour in artistic excellence. Other POY alumni who also received the Cultural Medallion: Tay Chee Toh (UOB POY winner in 1982 and 1985), Teo Eng Seng (1982, 1983 and 1984), Sarkasi Said (1983) and Thomas Yeo (1983).

The country winner of the 2010 UOB POY (Thailand), Pannaphan Yodmanee, has also gone on to win the distinguished Benesse Prize, the official award of the Singapore Biennale, in 2016.

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It has connected more than 100 artists to the wider art community through the UOB Art Gallery

UOB has a gallery space at its office in the CBD dedicated to the appreciation of art from the UOB Art Collection. This is also where it offers continued support for past POY winners. Discover the latest body of work of Zhang Chunlei, the 2020 UOB POY Singapore winner, in his solo exhibition Impression+ at the UOB Art Gallery. Featuring 16 works, the exhibition is a showcase of Zhang’s unique techniques where he creates a series of tightly woven lines and planes in his paintings of icons of popular culture as well as landmarks from the East and West. Till June 15 at the UOB Art Gallery as well as online.

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Forty years of UOB POY alumni unite in a special exhibition

Discover how Southeast Asian art has evolved over the years through the works of the competition’s art luminaries. Featuring 45 winning works, comprising 39 paintings from UOB POY (Singapore) winners and six artworks from UOB Southeast Asian POY winners, the virtual tours of this special commemorative exhibition will be held in Q3 this year.

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All four country winners of the 40th UOB POY will participate in an art residency programme in Shanghai or Fukuoka

The competition is open to citizens and permanent residents across Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Instead of one country winner, all four country winners this year will be participating in a month-long art residency programme either in Shanghai, China or Fukuoka, Japan. This experience is invaluable to artists to not only immerse themselves in the art culture of the host country but to expand their knowledge and expertise in the various approaches to art creation.

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Submissions for the 40th UOB Painting of the Year competition are open from now till July 31. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in November.