Although established only in 2002, the Sobey Art Award quickly became an essential element in the Canadian contemporary art scene. Indeed, with its national reach, its use of a jury and its focus on honouring art being produced by Canadians under 40, the Sobey served as perhaps the best and easiest forum for both accessing the country's freshest, often most demanding art and assessing where its creators might be headed in the crowded, increasingly internationalized art universe.
Did I mention that the winner also gets $50,000, with the remaining four finalists each earning $5,000?
Originally a biennial honour, the Sobey went annual in 2006. Over nine instalments, its long lists and short lists have demonstrated an almost unerring knack for recognizing the best and the brightest. Toronto's Shary Boyle, for instance, Canada's acclaimed representative at this year's Venice Biennale, was shortlisted twice, in 2007 and 2009. The hope is that the tradition continues this year, the short list for which was released Thursday in Halifax by the Sobey Art Foundation and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Culled by a five-member panel from a long list of 25 announced in April, the five finalists for 2013 are Vancouver video artist Isabelle Pauwels, Edmonton-born, Montreal-based Mark Clintberg (text works, objects, photographs and drawings), North Bay's Duane Linklater (film and video, performance art, "sculptural objects"), Pascal Grandmaison of Montreal (photography, video, film) and former New Brunswicker, now Vancouverite Tamara Henderson (film, sculpture, printed matter/poetry).
An exhibition of works by the finalists goes up Sept. 13 at the AGNS, with the winner announced Oct. 9 in Halifax.
Previous Sobey laureates include Brian Jungen (2002), Annie Pootoogook (2006), David Altmejd (2009) and Daniel Barrow (2010).