Michael Snow wins $40K Iskowitz Prize

Internationally renowned and prodigious Canadian artist Michael Snow has won the Gershon Iskowitz Prize.

Winner's purse increased by $15K for 2011 edition

A still from Michael Snow's video work SSHTOORRTY, 2005. The Toronto artist is the latest winner of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize. (Snow collection/Art Gallery of Ontario)

Internationally renowned Canadian artist Michael Snow, whose vast oeuvre has spanned experimental film and music, painting, sculpture, installation and photography, has won the Gershon Iskowitz Prize.

Increased to $40,000 this year, the annual prize celebrates a working Canadian artist and is jointly awarded by the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Iskowitz Foundation.

"Michael Snow's contribution to art in Canada  is unparalleled," gallery CEO Matthew Teitelbaum said in a statement.

Founding of the prize

In 1967, Polish-born Canadian artist Gershon Iskowitz received an arts grant that directly helped him develop the colourful abstract style for which he became known. In 1985, he decided to establish an annual $25,000 prize — for an artist in mid-career — in hopes of aiding peers to similarly evolve and grow. Iskowitz died in 1988.

In 2007, the AGO joined with the Iskowitz Foundation  to present the annual honour, adding an exhibition for the winner artist as part of the prize.

Past recipients have included Brian Jungen, Betty Goodwin, General Idea, Rodney Graham, Vera Frenkel and Shary Boyle.

"The breadth, innovation and creative vision of his work have been consistent throughout his career."

Born in Toronto in December 1928, Snow studied at the Ontario College of Art. Considered an influential figure in the world of experimental and avant-garde film, the contemporary artist has explored many different disciplines. His work continues to be featured in galleries and collections around the globe, including exhibitions this spring in France and Spain.

Snow's creations — including his famed 1967 film Wavelength — have been screened and won prizes at major international film festivals.

In his hometown of Toronto, several of his installations are among the most memorable public artworks around the city, including Flightstop — a collection of life-sized Canadian geese in flight at the Eaton Centre — and The Audience, two massive, gold-painted sculptures at the Rogers Centre depicting sports fans in celebration.

In 1993, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Power Plant contemporary art gallery teamed up to present the retrospective The Michael Snow Project. Staged in multiple venues, the vast show incorporated all the varied media the artist has worked in throughout his career.

Various Michael Snow works installed in AGO's contemporary galleries in 2008. The gallery will host a new exhibition of the Iskowitz Prize-winning artist's work. (Carlo Catenazzi/Art Gallery of Ontario)

Snow, who won a Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Art in 2000, is both a companion of the Order of Canada (its highest level) and a chevalier d'ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France.

Michael Snow was chosen "as a visionary, and stand-alone figure of the contemporary art world, with a body of work that challenges the viewer to not only reconsider how one might look at their surroundings, but how one might conceive of art altogether," said Gershon Iskowitz Foundation president Jeanette Hlinka.

The veteran artist will be celebrated at a Toronto reception on Friday, and will be the subject of a new exhibition hosted by the AGO.