In an Echo of Last Year’s Turner (Sur)Prize, Canada’s Prestigious Sobey Art Award Will Be Split Between All 25 Nominated Artists

Before this year, one grand-prize winner took home $100,000.

Tsēmā Igharas, the wind has something to say, documented by Ocean Van Mirlo and Sophia Biedka (2018, 2019). Courtesy of the artist.

In a surprise twist, the National Gallery of Canada and the Sobey Art Foundation have announced that they will not name a single winner for this year’s $100,000 Sobey Art Award, the most prestigious prize for artists in Canada.

Instead, they will give $25,000 to each of the 25 artists on the award’s long list. (Previously, each of the four shortlisted artists received $25,000, another 20 received $2,000, and one winner received $100,000, for a total of $625,000.)

The foundation cited the current health crisis and economic slowdown as an impetus for the decision.

“The extraordinary circumstances provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic will have a profound impact on the livelihoods and practices of artists across Canada and around the world,” said Rob Sobey, chair of the Sobey Foundation, in a statement. “As we all adjust to the changes in our everyday lives, we recognize how artists sustain us and give us hope. Our sincere wish is that each of this year’s long list artists will have some additional support to continue to do so.”

Artist Stephanie Comilang, who won the 2019 Sobey Art Award. Photo: Leroy Schulz.

Artist Stephanie Comilang, who won the 2019 Sobey Art Award. Photo: Leroy Schulz.

The move echoes last year’s Turner Prize, which was given jointly to all four of the shortlisted artists instead of one. Even though that news came long before the pandemic, its jury also cited our era’s challenging social and political climate for the move. “We are honored to be supporting this bold statement of solidarity and collaboration in these divided times,” the jury said in a statement at the time.

The Sobey Art Award was launched in 2001 to support the practices of young artists in each of the country’s five regions: the West Coast and the Yukon, the Prairies and the North, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic Provinces. Last year’s prize went to the Berlin- and Toronto-based artist and filmmaker Stephanie Comilang.

This year’s long list was culled from one of the largest pools of nominees to date, the jury said. The 25 who made the cut “reflect the remarkable richness and range of contemporary art practices across Canada,” the jury said in a statement.

“Distinctly dynamic, resonant, and compelling, these artists’ works bring to view meaningful approaches to their materials and gestures. They create new relationships and vocabularies that value specificity with regard to personal, geographic, cultural, or socio-historical perspectives, yet open themselves onto broader forms of connection.”

See the full list of winning artists below.

Representing the West Coast and Yukon: Michele Di Menna, Tsēmā Igharas, Carmen Papalia, Joseph Tisiga, Zadie Xa.

Representing the Prairies and North: asinnajaq, Jason de Haan, Luther Konadu, Amy Malbeuf, Freya Björg Olafson.

Representing Ontario: Bambitchell, Sara Cwynar, Georgia Dickie, Jagdeep Raina, Catherine Telford Keogh.

Representing Quebec: Adam Basanta, Moridja Kitenge Banza, Manuel Mathieu, Caroline Monnet, Sabrina Ratté.

Representing the Atlantic region: Jordan Bennett, Melanie Colosimo, Graeme Patterson, Lou Sheppard, D’Arcy Wilson.

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