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November 16, 2018

Kapwani Kiwanga Wins 2018 Sobey Art Award

OTTAWA, CANADA—The Ontario-born and Paris-based artist Kapwani Kiwanga has been named the winner of this year’s Sobey Art Award. Billed as Canada’s most prestigious contemporary art prize, the award aims to promote new developments in Canadian art and provide much needed financial support to artists.

Kiwanga—an anthropologist, social scientist, and filmmaker known for her research-driven works that often reference historical narratives, Afrofuturism, science fiction, and colonialism, among her other interests—was presented with the honor during a ceremony at an award gala held at the National Gallery of Canada Wednesday evening.

Earlier this year, the Sobey Art Foundation announced that the award would double its prize money, increasing it from around $38,000 to $76,000. Finalists Jordan Bennett, Jon Rafman, Joi T. Arcand, and Jeneen Frei Njootli will each take home about $19,000.

Chaired by Josée Drouin-Brisebois, senior curator of contemporary art at the National Gallery of Canada, the jury comprised curators from five designated regions in Canada (the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies and the North, and the West Coast and Yukon) and one international juror: Heather Igloliorte, an independent curator and Concordia University Research chair in Indigenous art history and community engagement; Jean-François Bélisle, executive director and chief curator at the Musée d’art de Joliette; November Paynter, director of programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto; Kristy Trinier, executive director of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery; Melanie O’Brian, director of the Simon Fraser University Galleries; and Séamus Kealy, director of Salzburger Kunstverein.

“Kiwanga creates a visual language to reconsider complexities and peripheries of history,” the jury said in a statement. “She points to fissures in our human narrative. Using archival materials and referencing anthropology, agriculture, and urban design, among other sources; she reveals global effects of the colonial project. In so doing, she addresses hidden authoritarian structures, institutional devices, and power imbalances to help us see the world differently.”

The 2018 Sobey Art Award exhibition showcasing the work of all five shortlisted artists will be on view at the National Gallery of Canada until February 10, 2019. Previous winners of the annual award include Nadia Myre, Abbas Akhavan, Jeremy Shaw, and Ursula Johnson.

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