Last year saw the passing of a young Kazakhstani artist Bakhyt Bubikanova who was one of the brightest personas on the Central Asian art scene. During the last few years of her life Bakhyt was battling a disease and despite various health challenges, she continued working, leaving behind performances, installations, paintings, photo projects, videos, and an infinite number of warm memories of her. Her presence resonated deeply with everyone she encountered with, gaining her a strong following among younger artists.

Sadly, the Great Artist B. Bubikanova, as she often referred to herself, is no longer with us, but the memory of her should live on! As an artist, Bakha always looked forward and often collaborated with young artists. Therefore, Aspan Gallery together with STEPPE are launching an annual competition for young artists in memory of Bakhyt Bubikanova, as well as an educational program supported by Ayarkut.

The competition will be held via an open call. Applications will be open to all artists aged between 18 and 40, who are either citizens or residents of Central Asia. Each artist or artist collective can submit up to three works in any medium by completing an application form at An independent jury will choose the finalists, whose works best resonate with Bakhyt’s art.

All shortlisted works will be exhibited at Aspan Gallery finalists’ exhibition, which will open on 24 February 2024. Among the shortlisted works, a selection committee from the A. Kasteev State Museum of Arts will choose one project to enter the museum's collection. The author of the selected work will receive a prize of 1 000 000 tenge from the project sponsor - artistic director of the Turkestan Musical and Drama Theater and producer Ainur Kopbasarova.

Thus, the winner’s artwork will become part of the collection of Kazakhstan's largest state art museum, expanding the national collection of contemporary art, the author of the work will receive a money prize, and the remaining finalists will have the opportunity to exhibit their works in a group show at Aspan Gallery. At each stage, online portal STEPPE will cover the competition extensively, producing content for its website and social media about each of the finalists.

In addition to the exhibition, Aspan Gallery will host an educational program for artists with the support of the Ayarkut. A five-day program will include speakers – artists, curators, and art historians - from Kazakhstan and abroad. During the program, students will learn how to create a portfolio and write an artist’s statement, how to properly pack and store works, both physical and digital, and will receive many other useful information. Ayarkut is a cultural foundation, founded by InDrive, which has been an active supporter of educational programs, residencies and exhibition projects in Yakutia and Mexico. The study program within the framework of the B Bubikanova Art Prize - Ayarkut Academy - will be the foundation’s first project in Kazakhstan. The program will be free of charge. Further details will be announced in the end of January.

Important Dates:

Application deadline – 24 January 2024

Shortlist announcement – 5 February 2024

Ayarkut Academy – 19 - 23 February 2024

Shortlist Exhibition – 24 February 2024

Expert Committee:

Yuliya Sorokina – PhD, independent curator (Аlmaty)

Yelena Vorobyeva – artist (Аlmaty)

Inga Lace – Chief Curator, Almaty Museum of Arts (Almaty/Riga)

Ulan Djaparov – artist (Bishkek)

Andrea Bustillos Duhart – Chief Curator, Ayarkut (Mexico)

Competition Rules:

The B Bubikanova Art Prize aims to support and promote contemporary art across a broad spectrum, from painting and graphics to street art and new media.

  • The open application process allows all artists to participate in the competition by completing an online form.
  • Artists aged 18 to 40, who are citizens or residents of Central Asia, are eligible to participate.
  • Each participant may submit only one application during the application period, and each application may include up to three works or projects.
  • Ready projects or those in preparation, scheduled to be completed within 10 days before the opening of the finalists' exhibition, are accepted for participation. The competition does not allocate a budget for the creation of works but will provide equipment for displaying new media artworks.
  • Due to museum storage considerations, projects containing organic materials that may decompose will not be considered. The direction of work/project can vary, including painting, graphics, sculpture, installation, art object, new media, video art, street art, performance, or photography.
  • In the application for already created works, a description and photos should be submitted, and for project works, a description, drawings, or sketches are required.
  • The competition will proceed through multiple stages. In the first stage, an Expert Council comprising five professionals in the field of contemporary art will review all submitted applications and select the works that will advance to the final of the Bakhyt Bubikanova Prize.
  • If a work advances to the final, the award organizers guarantee its inclusion in the finalists' exhibition at Aspan Gallery.
  • During the finalists' exhibition, a Selection Committee from the scientific and methodological department of the A. Kasteyev State Museum of Arts in Kazakhstan will choose one artwork for their collection. The author of the selected work will receive compensation of 1,000,000 tenge.

Partners of the Project:

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