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Ursula Johnson wins 2017 Sobey Art Award

37-year-old, Halifax-based artist awarded Canada’s most prestigious contemporary art prize worth $50,000, sealing her position as one of the country’s most exciting young artists

Ursula Johnson, Installation view of Moose Fence 2017 and (re)al-location 2017 Originally commissioned by Partners in Art for LandMarks2017

TORONTO, October 25, 2017 – The jury for the 2017 Sobey Art Award announced Ursula Johnson as the winner of Canada’s CA$50,000 prestigious contemporary art prize. She is the fourteenth Canadian artist under 40 to win the distinguished annual award.

The announcement was made during a gala event held Wednesday evening at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto. The award was presented to Johnson, who represents the Atlantic region, by last year’s winner, Jeremy Shaw (West Coast and Yukon).

On receiving the award, Johnson said:

“I am so grateful for winning this award! I have so much gratitude to have been selected to represent my region and to be in the company of such brilliant artists who are working in amazing ways! This gift of being the winner of the Sobey Art Award means that I will now have the tremendous opportunity to work on a larger scale and expand the reach of my work to a broader community while exploring more diversity in materials and content as well as beginning to create a network of collaborators internationally!”

Ursula Johnson is among five finalists, selected from a long list of 25 artists, to present her work in the 2017 Sobey Art Award exhibition on view at the Art Museum of the University of Toronto from 24 October to 9 December 2017. For the first time in the history of the Sobey Art Award, women and Indigenous artists dominated the shortlist. The selection committee, chaired by Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada, issued the following statement on Johnson’s remarkable achievement:

“Ursula Johnson was singled out ‎for her strong voice, her generosity and collaborative spirit. Through her work, she redefines traditional materials and re-imagines colonized histories.”

A total of $110,000 CDN in prize money from the Sobey Art Foundation is awarded to artists annually - $50,000 to the winner, $10,000 for each of the four finalists, and $1,000 for each of the longlisted artists.

The five 2017 Sobey Art Award finalists are: Raymond Boisjoly (West Coast and the Yukon); Jacynthe Carrier (Québec); Ursula Johnson (Atlantic); Divya Mehra (Prairies and the North); and Bridget Moser (Ontario). A list of the 2017 Sobey Art Award longlisted artists can be accessed here.

Rob Sobey, Chair of the Sobey Art Foundation which funds the award, noted:

“On behalf of the Sobey Art Foundation, I would like to personally congratulate Ursula Johnson on winning the 2017 Award. Every year we are very proud to be able to shine a light on the work of all of the long-listed and short-listed Canadian artists. I want to thank and congratulate every one of them for their enduring contributions to our national culture.”

The first Sobey Art Award was presented in 2002. Since then, it has highlighted the work of more than 350 artists, with winners such as Abbas Akhavan, David Altmejd, Daniel Barrow, Michel de Broin, Raphaëlle de Groot, Jean-Pierre Gauthier, Tim Lee, Duane Linklater, Nadia Myre, Annie Pootoogook, Jeremy Shaw and Daniel Young & Christian Giroux.

For more information about the Sobey Art Award, please visit:

About the Sobey Art Award jury
The 2017 Sobey Art Award selection committee was chaired by Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada, and comprised six jurors: 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); and Reid Shier, Director and Curator of the Presentation House Gallery (West Coast and the Yukon), as well as distinguished international juror, Adam Budak, Chief Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic.

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 by collecting and preserving 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, which are on display 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 centuries, 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 and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.


For all media enquiries please contact:

Josée-Britanie Mallet, National Gallery of Canada
+1 613-355-3989 or

Bernard Doucet, Sobey Art Foundation
+1 902-921-1755 or






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