Sobey Art Award 2021: The Five Finalists

Sobey Art Award 2021 logo and photos of five finalists

The Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada have announced the five finalists for the 2021 Sobey Art Award. As one of the world’s most prestigious contemporary art prizes, the Sobey Art Award is presented annually to emerging Canadian artists of all ages. By choosing one nominee from each of the five regions of Canada, the Sobey Art Award provides opportunities and significant financial support to emerging Canadian contemporary artists, while also enabling greater visibility across the country and beyond. The work of all five nominees will be featured in a group exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada this fall. This year’s five finalists are: Lorna Bauer (Quebec), Rémi Belliveau (Atlantic), Gabi Dao (West Coast and Yukon). Rajni Perera (Ontario) and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (Prairies and the North).


Rémi Belliveau (Atlantic)

Rémi Belliveau, Passe-Pierre (détail), 2017. Public intervention

Rémi Belliveau, Passe-Pierre (détail), 2017. Public intervention, homemade costume, kiosk, t-shirts and herbes salées. © Rémi Belliveau. Photo: Courtesy of the artist 

Rémi Belliveau is an Acadian interdisciplinary artist, musician, curator and writer. Originally from Memramcook, New Brunswick, in Mi’kma’ki, the traditional unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people, Belliveau centres Acadian culture and communities in his work. Working with historical and archival sources, the artist creates stories in video, installation and sound art that deconstruct and reconfigure ideas and concepts. His work has been exhibited in Fredericton, Montreal and Charlottetown, as well as at the West Baton Rouge Museum in Louisiana.


Lorna Bauer (Quebec)

Lorna Bauer, The Hand of Mee and the Moonflower, 2018. Five hand blown seagreen glass vessels in stainless steel butcher gloves, cast glass, slumped glass, various quartz crystal balls on plaster base

Lorna Bauer, The Hand of Mee and the Moonflower, 2018. Five hand-blown seagreen glass vessels in stainless-steel butcher gloves, cast glass, slumped glass, various quartz crystal balls on plaster base, 142cm × 122cm × 25.5cm. Installation view of The Hand of Mee at Franz Kaka, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nicolas Robert. © Lorna Bauer Photo: Jimmy Limit

Born in Toronto, Montreal-based artist Lorna Bauer explores and experiments with subjects relating to the environment, architecture, reflection and perception. After focusing predominantly on photo-based work, Bauer has been creating sculptures and installation work in recent years, often referencing historical figures and cultural moments. Her work has been exhibited at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Vancouver’s Model Projects and a number of galleries in Toronto. She is also the 2018 recipient of the Barbara Spohr Memorial Award.


Rajni Perera (Ontario)

Rajni Perera, Revenge 3, 2019. Brass and polymer clay

Rajni Perera, Revenge 3, 2019. Brass and polymer clay, 35,56 × 25.40 × 12.70 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Patel Brown. © Rajni Perera Photo: Courtesy of the atist and Patel Brown.

Through her work, painter and mixed-media artist Rajni Perera addresses diaspora, colonial ideology, power and social injustice. Combining vibrant colours with a rich visual vocabulary based in mythology and science fiction, her paintings, sculptures and photographs are “windows” into alternate worlds. Perera’s work has been exhibited in Toronto, Montreal and Regina, as well as internationally, including at Art League Houston, Gwanju Biennale and the Tramway in Glasgow.


Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (Prairies and the North)

Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, photograph

Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory Photo: Jeremy Mimnagh

Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory is a multidisciplinary artist, who works in performance, video, poetry, theatre, storytelling and dance. Born in Saskatchewan, the artist resides in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Performing the uaajeerneq (Greenlandic mask dance), she intertwines fear, humour and sexuality. Central to her work are Inuk culture, womanhood and “repatriating our own practices,” all imbued with political meaning. Determined to create and present her work within an Inuit setting, she often works collaboratively and has also presented her performance works in Nunavut, Vancouver, Ottawa and Berlin.


Gabi Dao (West Coast and Yukon)

Gabi Dao, Excerpts from the Domestic Cinema Ch.2, 2019. Video stil

Gabi Dao, Excerpts from the Domestic Cinema Ch.2, 2019. Video still, HD video and stereo sound, 00:13:08. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. © Gabi Dao Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Based on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) nations, Vancouver artist Gabi Dao works across sculpture, installation, film and sound.  Dialogues between historical and contemporary diaspora culture interweave these works, at times building specifically upon the experiences of her family’s Vietnamese-Chinese heritage. Key themes include individual sense of identity, migration and displacement, power plays, and the trauma of war, all presented in multiple truths. Her work has been exhibited at numerous galleries and festivals in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles and Rotterdam.


Works by the Sobey Art Award 2021 finalists will be presented at the National Gallery of Canada this fall. The winner of the Award will be announced in November. Share this article and subscribe to our newsletters to stay up-to-date on the latest articles, Gallery exhibitions, news and events, and to learn more about art in Canada.​

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