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Media Release
For Immediate release

2018 Sobey Art Award shortlist announced: The $240,000 award highlights excellence in Canadian contemporary art

OTTAWA, May 29, 2018 - The Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada announced the five finalists for the 2018 Sobey Art Award. The work of all five will be featured in a group exhibition opening October 3, 2018 at the National Gallery of Canada. One of the artists will take home the $100,000 first prize, to be awarded November 14 in Ottawa.

As one of the world’s most prestigious contemporary art prizes, the Sobey Art Award is presented annually to a visual artist age 40 and under who has exhibited in a public or commercial art gallery within 18 months of being nominated. By choosing one nominee from each of the five regions of Canada, the Sobey Art Award provides visibility and financial support to young Canadian contemporary artists, while also offering an opportunity to exchange ideas and to learn about different artistic and curatorial practices from across the country.

The five shortlisted artists contending for the grand prize are:

  • From the Atlantic region: Jordan Bennett
  • From Québec: Jon Rafman
  • From Ontario: Kapwani Kiwanga
  • From the Prairies and the North: Joi T. Arcand
  • From the West Coast and the Yukon: Jeneen Frei Njootli

The shortlisted artists were selected from a long list of 25 nominees by an international jury. The 2018 jury, chaired by Josée Drouin-Brisebois, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada is composed of Heather Igloliorte, Independent Curator and Concordia University Research Chair in Indigenous Art History and Community Engagement, for the Atlantic Provinces; Jean-François Bélisle, Executive Director and Chief Curator, Musée d’art de Joliette, for the Quebec region; November Paynter, Director of Programs, Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada, for the Ontario region; Kristy Trinier, Independent Curator, for the Prairies and the North region; Melanie O’Brian, Director, Simon Fraser University Galleries, for the West Coast and Yukon; and international juror, Séamus Kealy, Director, Salzburger Kunstverein.

“I’d like to thank the jury members for their dedication and openness during the selection process,” said Josée Drouin-Brisebois, the jury chair. “This year’s jury really took the time to thoughtfully exchange and learn about all of the artists’ practices. I am very proud of the shortlisted artists selected and inspired by the criticality and potent interactivity of their work. Many of this year’s artists use performance and public space, and it will be an interesting challenge to reflect these aspects of their practice in the exhibition this fall.”

Drouin-Brisebois will organize the exhibition featuring the work of the five shortlisted artists to be presented at the Gallery between October 3, 2018 and February 10, 2019.

In addition to the $100,000 Sobey Art Award grand prize, $25,000 is awarded to the other four finalists and $2,000 to each of the remaining 20 artists on the longlist.

About the artists

Born in Stephenville Crossing Ktaqamkuk and of Mi’kmaq descent, Jordan Bennett’s ongoing practice utilizes painting, sculpture, video, installation and sound to explore land, language, the act of visiting and familial histories. His work challenges colonial perceptions of indigenous histories, stereotypes and presence with a focus on exploring Mi’kmaq and Beothuk visual culture of Ktaqamkuk.

The work of Jon Rafman explores the impact of technology on contemporary consciousness, incorporating the rich vocabulary of virtual worlds to create poetic narratives that critically engage with the present. Born in Montreal, he studied Philosophy and Literature at McGill University and received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Hamilton-born Kapwani Kiwanga creates works across installation, sound, performance, sculpture and video that marry her training in anthropology, comparative religion and documentary film with her interests in history, memory and storytelling. Presenting rigorous research in imaginative ways, Kiwanga intentionally confuses truth and fiction in her art to enable marginalized narratives to flourish. Exploring different pockets of knowledge, she has tackled subjects as far-ranging as space travel, anti-colonial struggles, geology and disciplinary architectures.

Joi T. Arcand is an artist from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in central Saskatchewan, (Treaty 6 Territory), currently based in Ottawa. Her early work in photography and digital collage images was informed by her interest in graphic and typographic arts. Arcand's practice imagined what an Indigenized public space could be by rendering streetscapes and communities with typographic inclusions of nehiyawēwin, or Plains Cree (Y dialect) language. Her work has evolved to placing site-specific neon signage in Cree syllabics throughout the interiors and exteriors of buildings, expressing phrases which provide hope and encouragement for Indigenous peoples.

Jeneen Frei Njootli is an artist (Vuntut Gwitchin) and co-creator of the ReMatriate Collective, who has been living and working as an uninvited guest on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, Sto:lo and Tsleil­Waututh territories for a decade. In her interdisciplinary practice, she uses media such as performance, sound, textiles, collaboration and workshops. After graduating from Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 2012, Frei Njootli completed her MFA at the University of British Columbia in 2017.

Additional information about the 2018 nominees and jurors is available at and by following @PrixSobeyAward.

About the Sobey Art Foundation

About the National Gallery of Canada

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For all Canadian media enquiries, please contact:
Josée-Britanie Mallet
Senior Media and Public Relations Officer
National Gallery of Canada

Bernard Doucet
Sobey Art Foundation
902.752.8371, ext. 2301






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