The winner of the 2011 Grange Prize was announced earlier this week at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Delhi–based artist Gauri Gill takes home the $50,000 first prize for her work, which includes a decade-long portrait study of disenfranchised communities in the Indian state of Rajasthan. As the nominating jury noted, her photos often address “ordinary heroism within challenging environments” in images that are infused with “a rugged documentary spirit and a human concern for survival.” Runners-up Elaine Stocki, Althea Thauberger and fellow Indian artist Nandini Valli receive $5,000 each. A three-week residency exchange for the artists is also part of the Grange Prize package. An exhibition of works by all of this year’s nominees continues at the Art Gallery of Ontario until November 27.
Aside from being Canada’s richest award for contemporary photography, the Grange Prize is also our most international and, possibly, most democratic art competition. Established in 2008, each prize year features two artists from Canada and two from a partner country, so far including China, Mexico, the United States, and now, India. The prize’s nominating jury is equally binational, comprised this year of Canadians Michelle Jacques and Wayne Baerwaldt; Delhi art critic Gayatri Sinha; and the Delhi- and New York–based artist and curator Sunil Gupta. Yet perhaps most unique to the prize is the fact that the winner is tallied by popular votes cast both in the gallery and online. Past winners include Kristan Horton (2010), Marco Antonio Cruz (2009) and Sarah Anne Johnson (2008).