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Montreal’s Raphaelle de Groot wins $50,000 Sobey art prize

Montreal mixed-media artist Raphaelle de Groot was named the winner of the 2012 Sobey award for excellence in contemporary art.

Mirko Sabatini

It was second time lucky for Raphaelle de Groot on Friday evening as the Montreal mixed-media artist was named the winner of the 2012 Sobey award for excellence in contemporary art. Ms. de Groot, 34, prevailed over four other finalists to take the $50,000 prize, started in 2002 by the Sobey Art Foundation and now awarded annually by a national jury to a professional Canadian artist age 40 and under.

Ms. de Groot received her cheque at a gala hosted by National Ballet of Canada artistic director Karen Kain at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto, where her work and that of her fellow finalists will be exhibited until Dec. 30. Ms. de Groot had been nominated for the Sobey in 2008, losing to Vancouver's Tim Lee. She's been creating her multidisciplinary art in a variety of contexts and projects since the mid-1990s, curating found objects, video, drawings, still photographs, performance, documentation and installation art into often startling combinations. Said the five-member jury in a statement: "de Groot's practice explores and challenges ways in which art is created and received. Her work reinforces common values and shared human experiences."

Ms. de Groot and her fellow finalists were chosen from a long list of 25 artists announced in mid-April. The Sobey divides the country into five regions – West Coast/Yukon, Prairies/the North, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada – with one artist from each region named as a finalist. Each of this year's runners-up – Torontonian Derek Sullivan, Calgary's Jason de Haan, Gareth Moore of Vancouver and Haligonian Eleanor King – received $5,000.

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The Sobey, one of the country's richest art honours, was originally given every two years, but in 2006 it became an annual award. The prize is administered by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, which hosts the awards ceremony every other year. Previous ceremonies have occurred two times each in Montreal and Toronto, and in 2014 it's expected to be held in a western Canadian city.

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