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An award goes beyond recognizing photographers to honoring the work of the people who organize exhibitions, Yang Xiaoyu reports.

By Yang Xiaoyu | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-02-20 08:22

The creative duo of Gan Yingying (left) and Zhou Yichen after receiving the curatorial award for photography and moving image. CHINA DAILY

While many awards recognize and support outstanding photographers in China, there are very few that celebrate curators, who are also instrumental in researching and bringing themed exhibitions of photography and moving images to the public, whether in physical or virtual spaces.

So, aspiring young curators, especially those working with lens-based art, rejoiced when the prestigious Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival set up the Curatorial Award for Photography and Moving Image in 2021.

Co-initiated in 2015 by the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, one of the first contemporary art spaces dedicated exclusively to photography in China, and the Rencontres d'Arles, which is often called the "Cannes Film Festival of the photography world", the annual festival has grown into an essential fixture on China's photography scene. It has organized hundreds of exhibitions that showcase the latest work of local and international artists.

The curatorial award claims to be the first of its kind in China. It's a collaboration between the art center, based in both Beijing, and Xiamen, Fujian province, and the French fashion house, Chanel.

"We set up the award in the hopes of encouraging more talented curators to pay attention to photography and moving-image art, to gradually improve the ecosystem of photography and moving-image art," says Rong Rong (the penname of Lu Zhirong), co-founder of Three Shadows and of Jimei x Arles.

Rong Rong, who's also an established photographer, laments the lack of exceptional curators working in photography and moving-image art, and says this has led to a deficiency in academic research and criticism of these mediums. This means lens-based art, which is a relatively young art form, is relevantly less valued than other mediums, such as painting and sculpture, he says.

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