[GALLERY id=2655 cat=arts]

A Montreal-born installation artist who creates sculptural images of werewolves, birdmen and giants has won the $50,000 Sobey Art Award.

David Altmejd, who now lives and works in New York City, was chosen from a short list of five Canadians. He was declared the winner at a gala Thursday night at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax.

"It's very reassuring to feel that I'm part of something in Canada that's actually really exciting, interesting and beautiful," Altmejd told CBC News shortly after his win.

"His singular vision is overwhelmingly present to the jury," the selection committee said in a news release.

"Altmejd's sculpture represents the pursuit of metamorphosis and mutation as a means of releasing energy."

A total of $50,000 goes to Altmejd, while $5,000 goes to the other four finalists: Luanne Martineau, Marcel Dzama, Shary Boyle and Graeme Patterson.

Altmejd has attracted much interest on the international art scene and has shown his work in Liverpool, London, Barcelona, Istanbul, Frankfurt and throughout the U.S. He also represented Canada at the 2007 Venice Biennale.

Since 1992, the Sobey Art Award, organized by the Nova Scotia art gallery, has been given to contemporary Canadian artists under the age of 40. Contenders must have exhibited in a public or commercial gallery within the past 18 months to qualify.

One of the goals of the Sobey prize is to increase the awareness of and pride in contemporary art in Canada and Donald Sobey, chairman emeritus of the Empire Company, says he believes that investing in culture is the key to a city's prosperity. "The brightest minds want to go where there is art and culture."