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After releasing a longlist of 30 artists in April, the organisers of Canada’s top prize for contemporary art, the Sobey Art Award, have narrowed the field to six finalists. In years past there were five finalists, but the field has expanded slightly with the addition of the Circumpolar region—defined as existing at or near a geographical pole or within the Arctic or Antarctic Circles, encompassings Nunavut, Nunavik (Northern Quebec), Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador), and the Yukon and the Northwest Territories—to the five longstanding regions by which artists are categorised.

The six finalists, announced last week by the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) and the Sobey Art Foundation (SAF), are: Taqralik Partridge, Judy Chartrand, Rhayne Vermette, June Clark, Nico Williams ᐅᑌᒥᐣ and Mathieu Léger. Works by the six will be on view at the NGC in Ottawa from 4 October until 16 March 2025, with the winner to be announced during a ceremony on 9 November. Making that determination is a jury comprised of six previous Sobey recipients and/or finalists as well as Zoé Whitley, the director of London’s Chisenhale Gallery.

“This year, the peer-to-peer conversation brought forward by an artist-led jury resulted in recognising six artists whose vision, determination and commitment to innovation has remained unwavering—in some cases over many decades,” Jonathan Shaughnessy, the director of curatorial initiatives at the NGC and chair of the 2024 Sobey Award jury, said in a statement. “A wide range of creative practices distinguishes this year’s shortlist, including sculpture, beadwork, ceramics, photography, experimental film and mixed-media installations.”

The shortlisted artist from the new Circumpolar region, Taqralik Partridge, is originally from Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, and now lives in Ottawa. She is a writer, spoken-word poet, visual artist and curator. Her work has been presented in Sydney, London and at various venues across Canada.

Judy Chartrand, the shortlisted artist from the Pacific region, is of Manitoba Cree heritage and is now based in Vancouver. She is known for her ceramic and installation-based work, which exposes urgent issues around racism, ignorance and privilege.

Rhayne Vermette is the shortlisted artist from the Prairies region and a Métis image-maker and storyteller based in Winnipeg. Her work emphasises an interruption of image through collage, photography and analog film-making.

The shortlisted artist from Ontario, June Clark, is based in Toronto and has shown at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Florida’s Ringling Museum of Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Nico Williams ᐅᑌᒥᐣ, the shortlisted artist from Québec, lives and works in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal and is a member of Aamjiwnaang First Nation (Anishinaabe). He has a multidisciplinary and often collaborative practice that is centred around sculptural beadwork.

Representing the Atlantic region, Mathieu Léger is based part-time in Moncton, New Brunswick. His work reflects ideas surrounding time, the body and process-related tracing. His current work investigates spatial awareness through performance, sound and image.

Prize money for the Sobey Art Awards now totals C$465,000 ($340,000), making it among the world’s richest honours for contemporary artists. The winning artist will receive C$100,000 ($73,000), while the five runners-up will receive C$25,000 ($18,000), and the remaining longlisted artists each get $10,000 ($7,300).

The new Circumpolar region was previously lumped in with the Prairies. The region then collectively known as the Prairies and the North boasting the past three Sobey winners: Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (2021), Divya Mehra (2022) and Kablusiak (2023). In 2020, with Covid-19 a major concern, each of the 25 longlisted artists pocketed C$25,000.

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