The annual Sobey Art Award—for which $50,000 is given to an artist under 40, and $5,000 each to four finalists—is the closest the Canadian art world gets to the high-stakes milieu of other international art prizes such as Britain’s Turner Prize. And while a betting industry has not yet surrounded our fledgling creative honour, the announcement of the 2011 Sobey shortlist, which happened just last week on May 18, causes increasing conjecture. Here, a run-down of this year’s contenders in alphabetical order.
Manon De Pauw
What she does: De Pauw is a multimedia artist with an interest in process and collaboration. Often lacking fixed indications of completion, her work—whether dance, performance, drawing, sculpture, photography, participatory installation, or some combination thereof—pertains to the transcendence found in simple, everyday acts of creativity.
Awards and achievements: Nominated for the Sobey once before (longlist, 2009); solo exhibitions at Galerie de l’UQAM and Cambridge Galleries; assistant professor at Concordia University; participation in the Quebec Triennial in 2008.
International ties: Showed work at the 8è Bienal de Video y Nuevos Medios in Santiago, Chile; toured the world with Danièle Desnoyers’ dance company Le Carré des Lombes.
Did you know? Last fall, De Pauw curated “Acts of Presence” at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, selecting pieces on action and gesture from the institution’s collection, among them a Pre-Resolution work by Suzy Lake, one of her favourite artists.
Sarah Anne Johnson
Region: Prairies and the North
What she does: Officially a photographer but in practice an installation and performance artist as well as a flâneur, Johnson makes art out of her own experiences, which can take the form of re-invented residencies: her MFA thesis project dealt with treeplanters, while her current series is on the Far North.
Awards and achievements: Winner of the Grange Prize (2008); nominated for the Sobey once before (longlist, 2009).
International ties: Completed an MFA at the Yale University School of Art in 2004; has work in the Guggenheim’s collection; has shown at the Fondation Cartier in Paris.
Did you know? Johnson described her experience replanting indigenous species in the Galapagos—which later became the subject of a 2005 installation—as “Lord of the Flies, but with young girls and supervision.”
What he does: A Newfoundland-born sculptor in the manly tradition of Richard Serra, Moores works in foundries to construct metal recastings of familiar industrial equipment like dumpsters, sawhorses, milk crates, traffic pylons, cardboard boxes and shipping pallets.
Awards and achievements: Sessional professor at University of Windsor; participant in the 2007 and 2009 Windsor Biennials and in the 2007 UBE Biennial in Japan.
International ties: Worked at the Johnson Atelier in New Jersey, which acted as an apprenticeship for his current practice; has shown at the Memphis Metal Museum, the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit and Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey.
Did you know? Moores is a motorcycle enthusiast, has created props for film and theatre and also works as a freelance metalsmith.
Region: West Coast
What he does: Dawson City–based Stankievech makes boundary-spanning projects about communications technology, Cold War history and electromagnetic fields. His two best-known works to date are The DEW Project, which erected a mock-up of a geodesic dome at the meeting of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers and Ghost Rockets World Tour, an ongoing series of site-specific rocket launches.
Awards and achievements: Co-founder of the Yukon School of Visual Arts; writer for numerous national and international publications; resident with the 2011 Canadian Forces Artists Program.
International ties: Showed at Paris’ Palais de Tokyo and in Venice during the 2006 Architecture Biennale; participated in the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology conference in Finland and the International Symposium of Electronic Art in Germany; has contributed photographic work to NASA.
Did you know? Stankievech was awarded a rugby scholarship at Trinity Western University, where he completed his BA. He carries a meteorite in his coin pocket at all times.
Daniel Young and Christian Giroux
Born: 1981, 1971
What they do: Often working in the vein of architecture as much as in art, Young and Giroux make sculptures, drawings, videos and other works that reflect on the legacies of modernism, both formal and utopian.
Awards and achievements: Nominated for the Sobey once before (longlist, 2009); collaborated with PMA Landscape Architects on a play structure, Reticulated Gambol, for Scarborough’s Lee Centre Park; recent solo show at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; Giroux teaches at the University of Guelph.
International ties: Last fall, participated in Berlin’s Berlinale and in “Beyond/In Western New York” at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center in Buffalo.
Did you know? Young and Giroux originally intended Reticulated Gambol to have mirrors, but were not permitted this kid-confounding feature as per the Canadian Standards Association.