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asinnajaq wins $25,000 Sobey Art Award

Apr 15, 2020
by IAQ

Today, the Sobey Art Award announced its annual long list of artists, including filmmaker and curator asinnajaq, the first Nunavimmiut artist to be longlisted. This momentous achievement comes during the jury’s unprecedented decision to award all 25 longlisted artists with a $25,000 prize each, in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

The honour comes on the heels of several career milestones for the artist in recent few years. In addition to her curatorial roles with the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre and her participation on the curatorial team for Isuma’s presentation at the Venice Biennale this past year, asinnajaq’s artistic practice received international recognition. Her film Three Thousand won the Best Indigenous Short Film Award at the 2018 Skábmagovat Film Festival in Inari, Finland and was nominated for Best Short Documentary at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television. The Inuit Art Quarterly first introduced readers to asinnajaq in a Fall 2016 profile. Audiences across Canada have recently been able to see her work included in Among All These Tundras, the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival or through the National Film Board of Canada.


asinnajaq joins 24 other artists on the long list, including Indigenous artists Jordan Bennet, Amy Malbeuf, Caroline Monnet and Joseph Tisiga, each of whom will receive a $25,000 award. The Sobey Art Award shortlist, awards gala and international residency program, which was introduced last year, have been suspended in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

“We are so proud to be able to celebrate the work of these 25 talented artists,” said Rob Sobey, Chair of the Sobey Art Foundation. “As we all adjust to the changes in our every-day lives, we recognize how artists and their art can bring us together. Our sincere wish is that this year’s longlist artists will utilize this additional support to continue to do so.”

asinnajaq is only the fifth Inuit artist to make the longlist for the iconic award. Annie Pootoogook was nominated to the longlist in 2002, winning the prize in 2006; Mark Igloliorte and Couzyn van Heuvelen were longlisted in 2012 and 2018 respectively; and most recently Kablusiak was shortlisted in 2019. 


Three Thousand (still) (2017) Video 14 min
Courtesy National Film Board of Canada

This year’s jury was chaired by the National Gallery of Canada’s Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Josée Drouin-Brisebois, and included Grenfell Art Gallery Director Matthew Hills, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Curator of International Modern and Contemporary Art and IAQ Advisory Member Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Oakville Galleries Curator Frances Loeffler, Winnipeg Art Gallery Curator of Indigenous and Contemporary Art Jaimie Isaac, Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art Curator Henry Heng Lu, and international juror Carly Whitefield of the Tate Museum.

In their statement, the jury said “Distinctly dynamic, resonant, and compelling, these artists’ works bring to view meaningful approaches to their materials and gestures. They create new relationships and vocabularies that value specificity with regard to personal, geographic, cultural, or socio-historical perspectives, yet open themselves onto broader forms of connection.” 

The Sobey Art Award is Canada’s preeminent award for contemporary Canadian art and was created in 2002 by the Sobey Art Foundation. The $100,000 prize is awarded annually to an artist age 40 or under who has exhibited in a public or commercial art gallery within 18 months of being nominated, and shortlisted artists from each region of Canada receive $25,000 to support their careers. When public health guidelines permit in the future, the Sobey Art Foundation plans to return to the traditional format with a shortlist, residencies, gala and grand prize. For now, says  Dr. Sasha Suda, Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada, “the 2020 Sobey Art Award is contributing to the short and long-term preservation of Canada’s contemporary art ecosystem in the face of the unknown. I applaud the Sobey Art Foundation, the Jury, and the National Gallery of Canada team for their responsiveness and leadership, and congratulate all of the 2020 longlist winners.”

To watch some of asinnajaq’s work from the comfort of your home, we’ve compiled a list of Inuit-made films to watch while social isolating

The Inuit Art Foundation would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to asinnajaq on this important achievement! 

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