Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory wins the 2021 Sobey Art Award, prestigious $100k prize for emerging artists in Canada


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Rob and Laakuluk

From left to right: Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, winner of the 2021 Sobey Art Award and Rob Sobey, Chair of the Sobey Art Foundation. Photo: Lawrence Cook, NGC, Ottawa.

OTTAWA, Saturday, November 6, 2021.
—The winner of the 2021 Sobey Art Award, one of the world’s most valuable prizes for Canadian emerging visual artists, has been announced at a ceremony at the National Gallery of Canada. Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory has won the $100,000 Canadian prize, with each of the four shortlisted artists—Lorna Bauer, Rémi Belliveau, Gabi Dao, and Rajni Perera—receiving $25,000. The award is generously supported by the Sobey Art Foundation.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Sobey Art Foundation, I want to personally congratulate this year’s winner—the inspiring Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory —along with all 25 long-listed artists who took part in the 2021 Sobey Art Award process,” said Rob Sobey, Chair, Sobey Art Foundation. “The last two years have been an unprecedented period of restrictions around human interactions, impacting the practices of contemporary artists across Canada and around the world. Our Foundation applauds the commitment and resilience of all practising artists across Canada throughout this period. On our collective behalf, I’d like to extend our gratitude to the record number of artists from across the country who were nominated by their peers for the 2021 Sobey, their work is a testament to the power and significance of art. We are honoured to be able to see and celebrate the work, careers and creativity of such an incredible group of artists.”

“We are so proud to announce Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory as the winner of the 2021 Sobey art award,” said Dr. Sasha Suda, Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada, and Chair of the 2021 Sobey Art Award Jury. “The National Gallery of Canada could not be more grateful to everyone who makes the Sobey Art Award possible. Special thanks are due to the Sobey Art Foundation, this year’s dedicated group of jurors, and all of the nominated artists.”

“Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory provocatively transforms the framework of references for contemporary art. Williamson Bathory’s performance practice courageously defies preconceived notions through embodied lived experience. Her works invite us to share in a world abundant with possibilities infused with the interconnections of land, family, community and cultural knowledge,“ stated the 2021 Sobey Art Award jury.

“In a time when we recognize that this Canadian soil bears the small bodies of many thousands of Indigenous children, in an era when we work through colonial institutions to keep our families safe in the pandemic and at a moment when the Arctic city I live does not have potable water coming from the taps, I am proud to be recognized as I tell you the story of a momentous experience my family had on the land. As an Inuk, an artist, a mother and a family member, I can only tell you my story and this one is joy and celebration, awe and difficulty, beauty and destruction all at once. Qujannamiik, thank you for this incredible prize,” said artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory.

Representing the Prairies and North Region, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, the 2021 Sobey Art Award winner, was chosen by a jury of experienced Canadian curators from coast to coast alongside two international jurors, who selected 25 artists for the long list, from a record number of submitted nominations—five from each designated region of Canada. Then, one artist from each region was selected for the shortlist, ensuring the breadth of contemporary practices from across the country were represented.

Artworks from all five 2021 Sobey Art Award shortlisted artists—including the winner—are currently featured in a dynamic exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada until February 20, 2022. 

About the winner

Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory is a kalaaleq (Greenlandic Inuk) performance artist, poet, actor, storyteller and writer based in Iqaluit, Nunavut. She is known for performing uaajeerneq, a Greenlandic mask dance that involves storytelling centred around three elements: fear, humour and sexuality. Laakkuluk describes uaajeerneq as both a political and cultural act, and an idiosyncratic art form.  Artist Website

About the Sobey Art Award

Globally recognized as one of the world’s most generous privately funded prizes for contemporary visual artists, the Sobey Art Award celebrates the careers of emerging Canadian artists of all ages through financial support, an exhibition highlighting the practices of the five shortlisted artists, as well as national and international recognition. 

Presented annually, the Sobey Art Award provides significant financial recognition and professional support to some of Canada’s most exciting emerging artists.  The $400,000 prize money is divided among the 25 nominated artists: $100,000 for the winner, $25,000 for the four shortlisted finalists, and $10,000 each for the long-listed artists.

About the National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada is home to the largest contemporary Indigenous art collection in the world, as well as the most important collection of historical and contemporary Canadian and European Art from the 14th to 21st centuries. Founded 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 art for all Canadians. To find out more about the Gallery’s programming and activities, visit and follow us on TwitterFacebookYouTube and Instagram.

About the Sobey Art Foundation

The Sobey Art Foundation was established in 1981 with the mandate to carry on the work of entrepreneur and business leader, the late Frank H. Sobey, who was a dedicated collector of investment quality Canadian art. The Sobey Art Foundation continues the work begun by Frank Sobey, preserving representative examples of 19th and 20th century Canadian art. The Sobey Art Award, started by the Foundation, ran in 2002, 2004, 2006 before becoming annual in 2007. 

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For media inquiries only, please contact: 

Josée-Britanie Mallet
Senior Officer, Media and Public Relations
National Gallery of Canada

Denise Siele
Senior Manager, Communications
National Gallery of Canada

Bernard Doucet
Executive Director
The Sobey Art Foundation