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Kapwani Kiwanga’s installation Flowers for Africa: Union for South Africa at Goodman Gallery Johannesburg, 2017.Handout

A Canadian expat has won France’s top art prize. Kapwani Kiwanga, who lives in Paris, won the Prix Marcel Duchamp Monday.

Kiwanga, who was born in Hamilton and grew up in nearby Brantford, studied anthropology at McGill University in Montreal before establishing herself as a visual artist in France. Her work in installation, video, photography and sound art begins with documentary research and explores issues of society, place and colonialism.

Kapwani Kiwanga.Handout

She won Canada’s $100,000 Sobey Art Prize in 2018 with a large installation that evoked the walls of prisons and hospitals. Her contribution to the Duchamp Prize exhibition is an installation entitled Flowers for Africa, a continuing project she began during a residency in Senegal in 2013. It evokes key moments in the history of African independence by recreating the floral bouquets that were placed on parade-viewing platforms or negotiating tables during diplomatic and national ceremonies.

The Prix Marcel Duchamp was established in 2000 by the Association for the international diffusion of French art to identify the leading artists of the new generation in France and give them international exposure. Finalists are selected through a vote by the association’s members before a winner is chosen by an international jury.

The winner is awarded €35,000 (about $54,000), and several exhibition and professional development opportunities including participating in the group show dedicated to the four finalists at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. This year, the other finalists included Alice Anderson, Hicham Berrada and Enrique Ramirez. All four artists' work is on display at the Centre Pompidou until Jan. 4 while an exhibition of previous laureates is touring France to mark the prize’s 20th anniversary.

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