Inuit Artist Kablusiak Wins Canada’s Top Art Prize

Calgary-based artist Kablusiak has been named the 2023 recipient of the Sobey Art Award, Canada’s top art prize.

The award, which spotlights Canadian contemporary artists comes with 100,000 Canadian dollars ($80,000) is distributed by the Sobey Art Foundation. Alongside Bathory, four shortlisted artists— Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill, Séamus Gallagher, Anahita Norouzi and Michèle Pearson Clarke —have been selected to receive awards of 25,000 Canadian dollars ($20,000) each. The recipients of the prize, which was established two decades ago, were announced during a ceremony at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) on Saturday.

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Calgary Artist Kablusiak Wins 2023 Sobey Art Award

Kablusiak, who was born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and raised in Alberta, has received acclaim for her multidisciplinary practice, which explores issues related to the Inuit diaspora, queer identity and deals with tensions related to land ownership and colonialism. In 2019, the artist, whose practice spans an array of media: lingerie, soapstone, photography and text— secured a spot on the long-list for the prize.

In a statement, Jonathan Shaughnessy, the NGC’s Director of Curatorial Initiatives, who serves as chair of the 2023 jury overseeing the award, characterized Kablusiak’s practice as “fearless and unapologetic.” Shaughnessy praised Kablusiak’s distinct approach, noting that it captures the experience of being observed without genuine understanding—a narrative that resonates within both Inuit and queer realities, he said, influencing not only “the art world but society as a whole.” During the award ceremony, Kablusiak expressed gratitude to the museum and the Sobey Art Foundation for the recognition, describing the moment as “surreal.”

The Sobey Art Award, established to celebrate and support emerging artists under 40, has recognized artists who have received critical attention at a juncture in their career where they’re still becoming established. Kablusiak’s win follows in the footsteps of Divya Mehra and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, the 2022 and 2021 recipients.

A jury of Canadian and international curators, including Cecilia Alemani, the curator of the 59th Venice Biennale, and Matthew Hyland, curator of the Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery, selected Kablusiak, who represents the Prairies and North Region of Canada. Among the other shortlisted artists the panel selected were 25 others, collectively representing the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies and the North, and the West Coast and Yukon.

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