Jury Selects 2016 Sobey Art Award’s Top 5 Artists


The Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada announced today the five artists who have been short-listed for the 2016 Sobey Art Award, Canada’s prestigious contemporary art prize. The shortlisted artists are:

From the West Coast and the Yukon: Jeremy Shaw (Vancouver, BC, and Berlin, Germany)

From the Prairies and the North: Brenda Draney (Edmonton, Alberta)

From Ontario: Charles Stankievech (Toronto)

From Québec: Hajra Waheed (Montréal)

From the Atlantic: William Robinson (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

The selection of these finalists from a long list of exceptional nominees was made by a jury chaired by the Gallery’s Senior Curator of Contemporary Art Josée Drouin-Brisebois, which included Jonathan Middleton, Director and Curator of the Or Gallery, Vancouver, British-Columbia; Naomi Potter, Director and Curator of the Esker Foundation, Calgary, Alberta; Barbara Fischer, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Ontario; Marie-Justine Snider, Curator of the collection at the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, in Montréal, Québec; and Pan Wendt, Curator at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Prince Edward Island.

For the first time, an international juror joined the Award selection committee. “It is a fact that increasing globalization and its effects are the main issues for all artists today, a fact that becomes more blatant every day. Together with information, these permeate every sphere of contemporary life for all of us,” said Nicolaus Schafhausen, Artistic Director at the Kunsthalle, in Vienna, Austria. “The jury chose five artists whose approaches are characteristic of the frequently transdisciplinary practice of the upcoming generation of artists. They all reflect the broad intellectual spectrum of the Canadian art world. In their work, these artists link the questioning of their own artistic production with a reflection of social contexts. In the attention economy of today, artists share the same problems. In a sea of “sameness”, the task is not only to master an alternative form of aesthetics, but to talk in a relevant contemporary language. What does this mean? This is the challenge for artists and all of us today.”

More information about the short-listed artists and the jurors is available at gallery.ca/sobey

The five short-listed artists’ work will be featured in a special exhibition at the Gallery from October 6, 2016, to February 5, 2017. The 2016 Sobey Art Award winner will be announced during a gala event taking place at the Gallery in November 2016.

The Award recognizes Canadian artists, age 40 and under, and will distribute its annual prize total of $100,000 CAD, including a top award of $50,000, $10,000 to each of the other short-listed artists, and $500 to each of the other long-listed artists. The Award was initiated in 2002 by the Sobey Art Foundation to enhance the recognition of excellence in Canadian contemporary art. In 2016 the National Gallery of Canada became the Award’s organizing institution, signifying an ambitious new national and global profile for Contemporary Canadian art. The new partnership is building on the success achieved by the award’s founding partner institution, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which, for over thirteen years, helped raise the award’s profile.

Statements from the 2016 Sobey Art Award’s jurors

Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Sobey Art Award Jury Chair:

“It is an honour to chair such an inspiring jury. I would like to thank the 6 jurors for the engaging conversations and for their professionalism and dedication. The work being produced in Canada these days is outstanding. This year’s longlist featured a surprising number of multidisciplinary and conceptual artists, as well as artists working in traditional mediums in new and innovative ways. The artists on the longlist were all strong contenders, and it was challenging to narrow them down to these five finalists. I look forward to working with the artists and the jurors to mount an exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada this fall.”

Jonathan Middleton, Sobey Award Juror, West Coast & Yukon, on Jeremy Shaw:

“Jeremy Shaw is an acclaimed artist and musician. His compelling visual art works, largely produced in film, video, and photography, frequently draw on his interest in the psychedelic: depicting altered states of mind or similar states of reverie through which we look at the world with new eyes. In this sense, the psychedelic is analogous to art making – promising a new perspective from which we hope to learn about the world and understand it better. In my mind, Shaw has more kinship with famed British scientist Humphry Osmond than counter-culture guru Timothy Leary. His work is as investigative as it is generative.”

Naomi Potter, Sobey Award Juror, Prairies & North, on Brenda Draney:

“This year’s short list is an incredibly impressive selection of Canadian artists. For me, it signals a shift in Canadian production, one that is not solely rooted in the larger cultural centres, but presents both a transnational and a more rural, or smaller-centre, focus. With the Sobey Art Award moving to the National Gallery, a much higher profile is brought, not only to the award, but also to all the nominated artists, regardless of outcome. I predict a very thrilling 13th iteration of the Sobey Art Award. Artist Brenda Draney takes the personal and makes it universal: her work is powerful, completely unique and without compromise. It is very exciting to see Draney’s work being given a national platform; her voice deserves to be heard.”

Barbara Fischer, Sobey Award Juror, Ontario, on Charles Stankievech:

“Charles Stankievech is an internationally recognized artist whose award-winning exhibitions include Counterintelligence (2014) and Monument as Ruin (2015). He often refers to his interests as “fieldwork” – a temporary form of architectural installation that combines a diverse array of physical and immaterial elements, from photography to film, light and sonic materials, as well as writings, archival documents and works by other artists. Concerned with the transformation of the physical landscape and immaterial spaces as effected by military, industrial and colonial interests, and the history of technology, his work manifests ambitious and intensely rich essays on contemporary social and technological upheaval.”

Marie-Justine Snider, Sobey Award Juror, Québec, on Hajra Waheed

“Drawing on her own personal history, Hajra Waheed integrates historical and political perspectives, and with the help of archival materials, invents an imaginary story. Like an archeologist or an archivist, she uses fragments of photos and postcards to rebuild a story in another form. Video, installation, drawing and collage are all mediums used to reconstruct a modular story presented as personal archives. Blurring the boundaries between document and fiction and history, Waheed proposes an alternative history. While internationally renowned, Waheed occupies a rather discreet place on the Quebec art scene. Her nomination to the Sobey short list will strengthen her presence in Canada, providing the necessary impetus to “affirm” her work beyond our borders.”

Pan Wendt Sobey Award Juror, Atlantic, on William Robinson:

“There were many deserving candidates and the selection process was incredibly difficult – in fact, the conversation was still going on during the bus ride back to Halifax. But I think we achieved our goal, which was to choose artists with immense promise at a pivotal point in their careers, and who each reflected the rich variety of approaches to art making in Canada. This is what the Sobey Art Award is for, to provide timely support and recognition for Canadian artists. Choosing the Atlantic finalist was particularly difficult. I was pleased, though, that William Robinson’s impressive work was recognized by all of the jurors. His multimedia installations and sonic narratives are often ephemeral and shown at festivals. As a result, Robinson hasn’t yet achieved the national recognition he deserves. This will change now, as a wider audience will become aware of his compelling and complex work.”

About the Sobey Art Foundation

The Sobey Art Foundation was established in 1981 with a mandate to carry on the work of entrepreneur and business leader, the late Frank H. Sobey, to collect and preserve representative examples of 19th- and 20th-century Canadian art. The Foundation has since broadened its scope to support contemporary Canadian art through the Sobey Art Award. In one of the finest private collections of its kind, the Sobey Art Foundation has assembled outstanding examples from Canadian masters such as Cornelius Krieghoff, Tom Thomson and J.E.H. MacDonald. The collection is housed in an intimate setting at Crombie House, the former home of Frank Sobey and his wife Irene, in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.

About the National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. In 2015, the National Gallery of Canada established the Canadian Photography Institute, a global multidisciplinary research centre dedicated to the history, evolution and future of photography. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. For more information, visit www.gallery.ca and follow us on Twitter @gallerydotca. 

For all media enquiries, please contact:

Josée-Britanie Mallet
Senior Media and Public Relations Officer
National Gallery of Canada
613.990.6835 / bmallet@gallery.ca

Bernard Doucet
Sobey Art Foundation 
902.752.8371, ext. 2301