how to find the Unknown Artist
In the early years the CCAA seemed to act in the underground - as did the artists dealing with contemporary art. Among these artists the CCAA was known by mouth-to-mouth propaganda, they had to apply themselves for the award by sending their application documents to a PO Box. At that time neither the artists nor Mr. Sigg knew, how the official Chinese politics would react. Therefore it was more careful for the CCAA to operate more or less in the shadows.
Later on the CCAA had 5-6 nominators who proposed each 15-20 pre-selected artists, the art award winner was chosen from these pre-selected artists. The fact that from the very first the award's jurors were famous curators who enabled the artists to participate in internationally regarded exhibitions helped to establish the CCAA and also promoted the elected artists. There are many among them who have become internationally famous and therefore highly payed. This seems to be similar to the development of Chinese economy at that time. Opening to the western economic system made earning money to an enormous amount possible for individual persons. One of the main goals seems to be to get rich and therefore a person of great influence - as it is in western countries. In this respect contemporary Chinese art and public life partly went hand in hand.
Nowadays the search for the Unknown Artist has changed a little bit: Besides the nominator way the artists themselves can apply for the award online. And there is now a CCAA office in Beijing where all the documents concerning the CCAA and thus the history of the Chinese contemporary art are stored. This means forms the basis for academic research on Chinese contemporary art. I think, this is a good way to sustain the importance of the CCAA. As soon as contemporary art has become commercially successful there have grown a lot of new galleries and awards to take part in this market. But politics is still eager to control (and censor) sensitive artistic works and their artists, so I think, doing academic research on Chinese contemporary art is the best way to establish this art in China and to support artists, so that they can work independently on any topic.
I ask myself if it wouldn't serve to declare all the shortlist's artists winner of the CCAA (as it was once some years ago). This might take the pressure off the artists to be the very first and therefore could encourage more artists to participate in the award.