For the first time in its history, four circumpolar Indigenous artists appear on the Sobey Art Award longlist. Glenn Gear, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory and Maureen Gruben all appear on the longlist for the 2021 prize—Gear is nominated for the Atlantic category, Linklater for Ontario, and Gruben and Bathory for Prairies and North.
This is also the first year that artists of any age are eligible for the award, which since its inception in 2002 has only been presented to artists under 40. Some artists are only beginning their artistic careers at the age of 35, so the removal of the age limit allows for a greater range of emerging artists to make the list.
Jury Chair Sasha Suda, who is also Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada, said this year’s award received a record number of nominations, particularly from non-urban areas. “It has been an extraordinary privilege to learn about the amazing art being made from coast-to-coast-to-coast,” she said in the NGC press release.
“The unprecedented number of first-time longlisted artists resonates loudly with the Sobey Art Foundation’s commitment to amplifying new voices,” added Rob Sobey, chair of the Sobey Art Foundation.
Glenn Gear is an animator, filmmaker and visual artist from Corner Brook, Newfoundland, now based in Montreal, QC, whose work work often explores his ancestral ties to Nunatsiavut, creating alternative forms of storytelling through animation, archives, collage, installation, painting, and sound. His films have screened at festivals around Canada and the world, including the ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Festival. He recently created Iluani/Silami (it’s full of stars) (2021), a walk-in sea can (or shipping container) installation painted with scenes from a Nunatsiavut northern lights myth as a commission for inaugural exhibition INUA at WAG-Qaumajuq. When not making new artwork, Gear facilitates workshops in animation production for Indigenous youth.
Maureen Gruben is an installation, performance and textile artist from Tuqtuyaaqtuuq (Tuktoyaktuk), Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, best known for her work with fur, hides, skins and manufactured materials, which she uses to activate themes of environmentalism, melting ice and Indigenous hunting rights. Last summer, she took part in a virtual residency through the IAF Circumpolar Exchange Program which combined found materials with new technologies like virtual reality. Her work can be found in exhibitions around the world, including two recent appearances at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and WAG-Qaumajuq, where her pieces were on display in subsist and INUA.
Tanya Lukin Linklater is a multidisciplinary artist from southern Alaska who lives and works in Ontario. Her practice encompasses dances, performance, video, photography, installation and writing as a way to work through orality and embodiment. Her work has been featured in exhibitions nationally and internationally since 2012, and in 2021 was on display as part of Two Truths and a Lie at Oakville Galleries in Ontario, and You Sit In A Garden at Centre Clark in Montreal, QC and will be on display this October in Soft Water Hard Stone at the new Museum Triennial in New York. She is currently studying for her Ph.D. in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University.
Laakuluk Williamson Bathory is a multidisciplinary artist from Iqaluit, NU, with talents ranging from acting, curating, drum-dancing, music, writing and uaajeerneq (Greenlandic mask dance). Through uaajeerneq, Bathory educates both children and adults on the limits of human experience, and she works to advocate for Indigenous voices and gender equality. Bathory’s artistic practice won her the inaugural Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award in 2018, as well as the inaugural Indigenous Artist Award of the Sinchi Foundation in 2020. She was commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada to produce work for Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel in 2019. Bathory is the former Artistic Director of Qaggiavuut Society for Nunavut Performing Arts.
After the success of last year’s award, which gave $25,000 to each of the longlisted artists, the Sobey Art Foundation has increased the overall prize value to $400,000. The overall winner will receive $100,000, shortlisted artists $25,000, and each of the longlisted artists will receive $10,000 in prize money. As is tradition, the shortlisted artists will also be featured in an exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada in the fall of 2021.
Dispersing the money among all the artists means each will “receive meaningful financial support to sustain their practices,” said Sobey.
This year’s jury is composed of Suda; Nisk Imbeault, Director and Curator at the Galerie d'art Louise and Reuben-Cohen, University of Moncton; Emelie Chhangur, Director/Curator at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre; Tarah Hogue, Curator of Indigenous Art at Remai Modern; Adriano Pedrosa, Artistic Director at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director at the Whitney Museum of American Art; Dominique Fontaine, an independent curator; and Joni Low, an independent curator and writer.