The ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 Award

22 08 2012

The Martell Cordon Bleu Heritage exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the celebrated name in Cognac and the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 Photography exhibition drew to a close this evening. The closing of the exhibition at the Timeless Capsule , a temporary art gallery outside ION Orchard, also saw an awards ceremony during with the winners of the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 awards were unveiled. Besides the top prize which was won by Edwin Koo, there were Discernment Awards given out to two photographers, Jeremy San and Ernest Goh and for the first time, an Eternal Discovery Prize based on public voting created for the centenary celebration, awarded to Wesley Loh. The title prize brings with it $30,000 in cash, a trip to Cognac, France and the chance to publish a photography book of his works, the Discernment Awards carries a cash prize of $8,000 each, while the Eternal Discovery Prize is worth $1,000 and an exclusive Centenary Limited Edition set of Martell Cordon Bleu.

Edwin Koo came prepared with a speech …

The winners were selected from nine nominees and picked by a jury of international and local judges who looked at the strength of the photographer’s portfolio, a body of work that shows a coherent vision, unique points of view as well as skillful and well-developed artistic expression. This year’s jury consists of Madame Agnes de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, photography curator and writer; Mr Ian Berry, Magnum Photographer; Ms Emmeline Yong, Partner, Objectifs Centre for Photography and Filmmaking; Ms Bridget Tracy Tan, Director, Institute of Southeast Asian Arts & Art Galleries, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Ms Charmaine Leung, Director of Marketing, Pernod Ricard Singapore.

About ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu

Organised by Pernod Ricard Singapore, ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu is an annual photography award that recognises Singapore’s most outstanding photographer. As part of Martell Cordon Bleu’s centenary celebrations and to pay homage to this celebrated cognac that has given its name to the award, ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 was organised around the centenary theme of Eternal Discovery. New elements were introduced to the third edition of ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu.

About the winner Edwin Koo’s portfolio

Edwin Koo (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

Edwin Koo’s three series, Dreaming of Phayul, Paradise Lost and We Would Be Heroes, shares an overarching theme of “A Strange Place Called Home”, where the concept of home and homeland is explored. Dreaming of Phayul examines the hopes and dreams of Tibetan exiles yearning for a “fatherland” that is no longer theirs, while Paradise Lost, set against the backdrop of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, is an investigation into the notion of physical paradise as home. Meanwhile, We Would Be Heroes dwells on the heroic ambitions of young Nepali men and women to free their homeland from feudalism, only to end up estranged from home as the civil war ended.

A selection of Edwin Koo’s works (images provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu):


A timeless capsule

3 08 2012

Step outside ION Orchard, it would be hard not to notice a temporary structure that has made an appearance close to the corner where Orchard Road and Paterson Road meets. What will probably draw one to it would be the name ‘Martell Cordon Bleu’ – which celebrates its 100th anniversary with an exhibition which traces the history of the celebrated cognac to its origins in 1912 as well as featuring old shipping invoices and newspaper advertisements which provide a link to its presence in Singapore that dates back to the 1930s at the structure named The Timeless Capsule which will be opened to the public from 3 to 22 August 2012 . It isn’t however just the celebration of Martell Cordon Bleu’s centenary that makes it worthwhile to visit what has been touted as Singapore’s largest art gallery, but also another joy – one that celebrates the works of nine nominated ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu photographers – in an annual photography award organised by Martell Cordon Bleu for which the nine will vie for the top prize of $30,000.

Mr Paul-Robert Bouhier, Managing Director Pernod Ricard Singapore introducing The Timeless Capsule.

The photographers have been shortlisted by an expert panel that comprises Ms Kelley Cheng, Creative Director of The Press Room; Mr Russel Wong, celebrated Singapore photographer; Mr Milenko Prvacki, Senior Fellow at LaSalle College of the Arts; Mr Edmund Wee, managing and creative director of Epigram books, and ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2011 winner, Mr Sean Lee. They are Mr Albert Lim, Mr Edwin Koo, Mr Ernest Goh, Mr Jeremy San, Mr Roy Zhang, Mr Sam Kang Li, Mr Tristan Cai, Mr Wesley Loh and Mr Yian Huang. Their works are being exhibited in non print form – through the use of a multimedia format. In addition to the cash prize, the winner of ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu will also receive the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu trophy, a trip to Cognac, France and an opportunity to publish a book of his photographs. The two runners-up will each be honoured with the Discernment Award and cash prize of $8,000. In addition to this, a Eternal Discovery prize worth $1000 has also been introduced this year for the centenary, which will be awarded to the photographer who has obtained the most support through public voting. Votes can be cast online at or at the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu exhibition in The Timeless Capsule.

Shadows of guests at the opening of The Timeless Capsule each with a glass of Martell Cordon Bleu in hand.

I did not have the time to view all the exhibits by ones that caught my eye immediately the most were the works of Edwin Koo and Yian Huang both of which I found to be extremely evocative. Edwin who has been using photography to tell stories since 2002 had previously worked in the local press before leaving for Nepal in 2008 where pursue his interest to document human displacement and political turmoil. His series, Dreaming of Phayul, Paradise Lost and We Would Be Heroes, features marginalised groups during his time based in Kathmandu, Nepal. In 2011, his works on the Swat Valley was exhibited in the Angkor Photo Festival. His works on the Tibetan exiles were also shown in Photo Quai, in Paris in 2011.

Refugees wait for tea at Sheik Yasin camp, Mardan, Pakistan by Edwin Koo (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

Edwin Koo (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

Yian Huang on the other hand had a background in management consultancy before obtaining his Masters degrees from Columbia in International Affairs and Journalism. He covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while in the Middle East and has been exhibited at Galerie Steph at Helutrans in Singapore, the Palais du Louvre in Paris, the Singapore Art Museum, and in galleries in Russia, Italy and the US. He has also been published in the Economist, Newsweek, the Peak, and Sports Illustrated; and worked for the Newark Star Ledger based in New York City, and as an intern at the Magnum Photo Agency in Paris.

Work of Yian Huang (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

Yian Huang (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

An interesting display in The Timeless Capsule is a specially crafted, one-off piece of the iconic Martell Cordon Bleu cognac bottle by the renowned House of Boucheron. The unique bottle – The Ultimate Jewel which captures the houses’ passion for transforming the finest and rarest of raw materials into either exquisite blends or beautiful, timeless jewellery. The Ultimate Jewel will make a few stops on its international circuit before it is to be auctioned in China at the end of the year.

The Ultimate Jewel (image provided by Martell Cordon Bleu).

The centenary celebrations also sees Martell Cordon Bleu embarking on a charity drive. This would be to raise funds for the beneficiaries of Community Chest. The Martell Cordon Bleu Centenary Charity Drive aims to raise a minimum of $128,800. For the drive 100 exclusive Martell Cordon Bleu Anniversary Gift Sets consisting of a Limited Edition Centenary Bottle, Standard Edition Centenary Bottle autographed by cellar master, Benoit Fil, a Limited Edition photo print and photography book by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2011 Winner, Sean Lee, will be given in appreciation to contributions of a minimum of $1,288 each with all proceeds going to Community Chest.

The light show during the opening of The Timeless Capsule.

Several fringe activities will take place in The Timeless Capsule during the period, including a photography talk, An Eternal Discovery Revealed, on 6 August by the nine nominated photographers; a cognac and chocolate pairing session called Cognac & Chocolate: A Timeless Taste on 8 August (chocolate desserts prepared by the Singapore National Pastry Team will be paired with Martell Cordon Bleu for the public to sample the timeless taste of the cognac at the session). A photography book by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2011 winner, Sean Lee, will also be officially launched on 16 August. All fringe activities are free to the public but registration is required as places are limited. The Timeless Capsule is open everyday from 3 to 22 August between 10am and 10pm. For more information about The Timeless Capsule, please visit

Claressa Monteiro performing at the opening of The Timeless Capsule.

About ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu – The Exhibition

3 Aug – 22 Aug, 10am – 10pm

The Timeless Capsule, Outside ION Orchard

Admission is free

ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu returns for its third year to recognise Singapore’s most outstanding photographer. In conjunction with Martell Cordon Bleu’s centenary celebrations, ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu will include new elements as part of this 100th year milestone. Curated around the centenary’s theme of Eternal Discovery, the photography exhibition will be presented in a multimedia format, thus taking photography appreciation to a whole new level. ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu will also be awarding the Eternal Discovery prize to the photographer with the most votes. The public can vote online at

The exhibition will be held in a specially constructed gallery called The Timeless Capsule outside ION Orchard. The Timeless Capsule will also host an exhibition on the heritage of the legendary Martell Cordon Bleu cognac as well as fringe activities involving art and gastronomy.