Skip to main content

Abbas Akhavan, winner of the 2015 Sobey Art Award.

Steve Farmer/Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Toronto-based artist Abbas Akhavan has won the 2015 Sobey Art Award, at $50,000 one of the richest purses in the Canadian art world. The Tehran-born Akhavan, 38, prevailed over four other finalists to take the juried prize at a ceremony on Wednesday evening at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax.

The Sobey was started in 2002 by the Sobey Art Foundation, which is based in Nova Scotia, as a way to recognize the best in Canadian contemporary art. Initially awarded every two years, it has been handed out annually since 2006 to an artist under 40 who has exhibited work in a public or commercial gallery within 18 months of being nominated. Akhavan, who came to Canada with his family in the late 1980s at the end of the Iran-Iraq War, was among the five finalists for the 2015 prize announced in June this year, based on nominations submitted in February.

Akhavan, who obtained a BFA in studio arts/art history from Montreal's Concordia University in 2004, and an MFA from the University of British Columbia in 2006, works in a variety of idioms – installation art, video, drawing, painting, sculpture and performance – often with a political and elegiac cast. In the past decade, he has had residencies in locations as varied as Toulouse in France, Santander in Spain, Dubai, Robert Wilson's Watermill Center on Long Island, N.Y., and Newfoundland's Fogo Island.

Story continues below advertisement

In 2009, he participated in the well-regarded How Soon is Now survey show of recent contemporary art hosted by the Vancouver Art Gallery. His piece, Landscape: For the birds, consisted of a 40-minute loop of the songs of sundry invasive British bird species, played 24 hours a day from speakers housed in two cypress trees outside the VAG. He has a show of installation work, titled variations on a garden, at Toronto's artist-run gallery Mercer Union. (It is scheduled to close on Oct. 31.)

The six-member curatorial panel said in a statement released on Wednesday that it "wanted to underline the generosity and empathy at play in Abbas's work. Through a fugitive practice that resists fixed meaning, Akhavan reasserts that power and engagement are always relevant subjects for examination."

Prize organizers divide nominees by region. Akhavan was nominated for the Ontario region. The other finalists – Sarah Anne Johnson (Prairies and the North), Raymond Boisjoly (West Coast/Yukon), Jon Rafman (Quebec) and Lisa Lipton (Atlantic) – each received $10,000 as runners-up. Work by all short-listed artists is on display at the AGNS through Jan. 3, 2016.

Previous Sobey winners have included Annie Pootoogook (2006), David Altmejd (2009) and Nadia Myre (2014).

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter