Vancouver artist Rebecca Belmore was hailed as an inspiration to young First Nations artists. (Hnatyshyn Foundation)

Rebecca Belmore, the Vancouver-based visual and performance artist whose dark humour helped make her an international sensation, has won the 2009 Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award.

She was awarded the $25,000 prize on Monday for outstanding achievement by a Canadian artist.

Belmore creates work about the disenfranchised and marginalized in society, often referencing historical events. She works in sculpture, installation, video and performance.

"Since the late 1980s, Rebecca Belmore has challenged romantic conceptions of aboriginal cultures through a remarkable series of performance art pieces and mixed-media installations," said the jury that chose her as winner. It hailed her as an inspiration for young First Nations artists.

Belmore represented Canada at the 2005 Venice Biennale and has been exhibited internationally since 1987.

The Hnatyshyn Foundation also awards a $15,000 prize for curatorial excellence. That award went to Anthony Kiendl, director and curator of the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art in Winnipeg.

Kiendl, currently an instructor at the University of Manitoba, has worked at the Banff Centre in Banff, Alta., and the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina.

The awards, named after late governor general Ray Hnatyshyn, will be presented on Dec. 1, 2009, by Manitoba Lt.-Gov. Philip S. Lee at Government House in Winnipeg.