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The $110,000 Sobey Art Award highlights diversity and excellence in Canadian contemporary art
Divya Mehra, I am the American Dream (still just a Paki), 2010, 1987 Gold Jaguar Vanden Plas, 190.5 × 487.68 × 101.6 m, Photo: Larry Glawson.

OTTAWA.- The finalists for the 14th edition of Canada’s prestigious contemporary art prize, the 2017 Sobey Art Award, were announced in June by the Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada. By choosing a nominee from five different regions, the award provides visibility and support to young Canadian contemporary artists from coast to coast to coast. The award also offers an opportunity to exchange ideas and to learn about different artistic and curatorial practices from across the country. The five shortlisted artists, four of whom are women, contending for the $50,000 prize are:

• From the Atlantic region: Ursula Johnson (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia)

• From Québec: Jacynthe Carrier (Québec City, Québec)

• From Ontario: Bridget Moser (Toronto, Ontario)

• From the Prairies and the North: Divya Mehra (Winnipeg, Manitoba; Delhi, India; New York, New York)

• From the West Coast and the Yukon: Raymond Boisjoly (Vancouver, British Columbia)

Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada chaired the selection committee of six jurors. Upon the completion of jury deliberations she remarked: “The five exceptional artists shortlisted for 2017 Sobey Art Award reflect the multiplicity of contemporary Canadian visual arts.”

Other members of the 2017 selection committee include Sarah Fillmore, Chief Curator at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Atlantic); Claude Bélanger, General and Artistic Director, Manif d’art de Québec (Québec); Sarah Robayo Sheridan, Curator of the Art Museum at the University of Toronto (Ontario); Jenifer Papararo, Executive Director at the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art (Prairies and the North); Reid Shier, Director and Curator of the Presentation House Gallery (West Coast and the Yukon) and Adam Budak, Chief Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic. This is the second time the committee includes an international jury member. Nicolaus Schafhausen, the Artistic Director at the Kunsthalle, in Vienna, Austria, participated in 2016.

As part of the award’s mandate to reflect and promote Canadian contemporary art, an exhibition of the shortlisted artists’ work is organized at a guest art institution in odd years and at the National Gallery of Canada in even years. In 2017, the work of the five shortlisted artists’ will be exhibited at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto from 24 October to 9 December.

Also announced was an increase in prize money awarded to participating artists. A total of $110,000 will be distributed in 2017: $50,000 to the winner, $10,000 to the four other shortlisted artists, and $1,000 for each longlisted artist – double the amount awarded in previous years. The Sobey Art Award, created by the Sobey Art Foundation in 2002, is presented to a Canadian artist aged 40 and under who has exhibited in a public or commercial art gallery within 18 months of being nominated. The winner of the 2017 Sobey Art Award will be announced at a gala event at the Hart House Great Hall at the University of Toronto on October 25, 2017.

In their various practices the 2017 shortlisted artists question and challenge preconceived notions of diversity, identity, and performance.

Raymond Boisjoly is an Indigenous artist of Haida descent whose photographic and text-based works reference pop culture to rethink representations of indigeneity. His work draws attention to the discourses that frame and delimit the work produced by Indigenous artists.

Using both photography and video, Jacynthe Carrier creates mesmerizing contemporary allegories that reimagine relationships between individuals and communities and the land they inhabit.

Ursula Johnson is a performance and installation artist of Mi’kmaw First Nation ancestry. Her work engages with strategies of duration and display to interrogate outdated ethnographic and anthropological approaches to understanding Indigenous cultural practices.

Winnipeg, Delhi and New York based artist Divya Mehra creates satirical and compelling work that questions the effects of colonization and racism and the construct of “diversity.” She appropriates and then represents references found in hip hop, literature and contemporary media.

Toronto-based Bridget Moser is a performance and video artist whose spoken monologues draw from prop comedy, experimental theatre, absurd literature and intuitive dance to create situations of pathos, humour, and awkwardness.

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