Sobey Art Award to give 25 artists $25,000 each

Drastic times need drastic measures — and so the Sobey Art Award is doing away with its winner-take-it-almost-all prize to instead give 25 finalists $ 25,000 each, due to the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These extraordinary, historic and challenging circumstances 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 Art Foundation.

For 2020, the Sobey Art Award, which kicked off in 2001, will dispense with the selection of a five-person shortlist, the shortlist exhibition, the gala winner’s announcement and the international residencies program. Past winners of the honour, limited to artists under the age of 40, include Brian Jungen and Annie Pootoogook.

“As we all adjust to the changes in our everyday lives, we recognize how artists and their art can bring us together. Our sincere wish is that this year’s longlist artists will utilize this additional support to continue to do so,” added Sobey.

The finalists were chosen from more than 100 nominations received by a jury of curators from across the country. The 25 artists represent all areas of the country. They are:

“In this unprecedented moment, we welcomed the award committee’s decision to reconceive the award process so as to champion and support the practices of 25 artists,” the jury said in a statement. “Selecting among so many candidates of exceptional quality was no simple task, but in working through an array of considerations, our conversations led us to recognize artists at different moments in their careers whose works we feel invigorate, innovate and reframe wide-spanning areas of practice and discourse.”

In previous years, the first-prize winner won $ 100,000 while the other shortlisted artists received $ 25,000.

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“By altering this year’s program, the 2020 Sobey Art Award is contributing to the short and long-term preservation of Canada’s contemporary art ecosystem in the face of the unknown,” said Sasha Suda, director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada.

The Sobey Art Award is “committed” to returning to the juried annual award and the international residencies program as soon as public-health guidelines permit.