The big news on the Canadian art scene this week is the June 15 announcement in Halifax of the five national finalists for the 2010 Sobey Art Award—Daniel Barrow, Patrick Bernatchez, Brendan Fernandes, Brendan Lee Satish Tang and Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby. It’s a solid list of contenders vying for the $50,000 prize, which is doled out annually to an artist under the age of 40 on the strength of an exhibition at a public or commercial gallery within the preceding year and a half. With approaches ranging across media and meaning as well as the artists’ growing national and international reputations to consider, this year’s finalists are bound to make it difficult for the curatorial jury to decide on the winner, to be announced in Montreal on November 18.
This raises an important, though perhaps under-acknowledged, point about the Sobey Award’s judging process. In the past couple of years, organizers seem to have upped the curatorial ante by engaging some of the country’s best-informed exhibition makers, resulting in not only a comprehensive overview but also a definitive perspective on emerging Canadian art practices. That behind-the-scenes expertise has pushed the Sobey into new terrain, giving the award a newfound critical edge and making it an increasingly reliable gauge—from the previously announced 25-artist long list to this fall’s big winner—of the best in new Canadian art. This year’s team is no exception, with senior curators Philip Monk from the Art Gallery of York University and Grant Arnold from the Vancouver Art Gallery joining newer curatorial voices Jen Budney of the Mendel Art Gallery, Lesley Johnstone of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and David Diviney of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
As the saying goes, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” and to that end an exhibition of works by this year’s finalists opens on October 8 at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Until then, take a look at these image portfolios for each of this year’s Sobey contenders.
Emily Vey Duke & Cooper Battersby