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Amid COVID-19, Sobey Art Award to give $25K to each longlisted artist

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of the Sobey Art Award have made the unprecedented decision to award $25,000 to each of the artists on its 2020 long list.

Reconceived 2020 edition aims 'to champion and support the practices of 25 artists'

Art by Stephanie Comilang, winner of the 2019 Sobey Art Award, on display at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton. Organizers of the annual contemporary art prize have radically changed this year's award structure in response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Leroy Schulz)

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of the Sobey Art Award have made the unprecedented decision to award $25,000 to each of the artists on its 2020 long list.

The Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada, which jointly administer the annual contemporary art prize, announced their decision and the 25 longlisted artists on Wednesday.

"By altering this year's program, the 2020 Sobey Art Award is contributing to the short and long-term preservation of Canada's contemporary art ecosystem in the face of the unknown," Sasha Suda, director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada, said in a statement. 

WATCH | National Gallery CEO Sasha Suda explains changes for the 2020 edition of the Sobey Art Award

Launched in 2001 to boost the profile of rising stars on the Canadian contemporary art scene, the Sobey Art Award celebrates artists under the age of 40. Past winners have included Brian Jungen, Annie Pootoogook, Michel de Broin and Kapwani Kiwanga. 

Each year, a jury panel typically selects 25 artists representing five different regions of the country, before whittling the contenders down to a short list of five, who are showcased in an exhibition. Finally, a winner receives the top prize of $100,000 at an awards gala. Organizers also present $25,000 to each of the four non-winning finalists, along with $2,000 to the semi-finalists who do not move on from the long list.

We recognize how artists and their art can bring us together. Our sincere wish is that this year's long list artists will utilize this additional support to continue to do so.- Rob Sobey, Sobey Art Foundation

For 2020, organizers have nixed the short list, the exhibition, the final gala as well as this year's edition of the foundation's art residency program, in favour of distributing $25,000 directly to the 25 jury-selected artists on the long list.

"As we all adjust to the changes in our everyday lives, we recognize how artists and their art can bring us together. Our sincere wish is that this year's long list artists will utilize this additional support to continue to do so," said Rob Sobey, chair of the Sobey Art Foundation. 

This year's Sobey Art Award long list includes:

  • Representing the West Coast and Yukon: Michele Di Menna, Tsēmā Igharas, Carmen Papalia, Joseph Tisiga, Zadie Xa.
  • Representing the Prairies and North: asinnajaq, Jason de Haan, Luther Konadu, Amy Malbeuf, Freya Björg Olafson.
  • Representing Ontario: Bambitchell, Sara Cwynar, Georgia Dickie, Jagdeep Raina, Catherine Telford Keogh.
  • Representing Quebec: Adam Basanta, Moridja Kitenge Banza, Manuel Mathieu, Caroline Monnet, Sabrina Ratté.
  • Representing the Atlantic region: Jordan Bennett, Melanie Colosimo, Graeme Patterson, Lou Sheppard, D'Arcy Wilson.

The jury, comprising art curators from across the country, praised "the remarkable richness and range" of the longlisted artists, "whose works we feel invigorate, innovate, and reframe wide-spanning areas of practice and discourse."

The jurors also welcomed the award committee's decision "to reconceive the award process so as to champion and support the practices of 25 artists."

Organizers said they are committed to returning to its previous award structure and program "as soon as public health guidelines permit."

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