Sobey Art Award – About
The Sobey Art Award is the pre-eminent prize for Canadian artists of all ages.
Presented annually, the award celebrates some of our country’s most exciting artists and provides significant financial recognition.
Since it was created in 2002, the Sobey Art Award has had an undeniable impact on the careers of Canadian contemporary artists. Within little more than a decade, the award and its attendant publicity have also boosted awareness of contemporary art in Canada and further afield.
Each year, a jury composed of one distinguished representative from each of Canada’s five regions — the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies and the North, and the West Coast and Yukon — as well as one international juror oversees the selection process. The jury creates a list of five artists from each region selected from all regional nominees, and based on the jurors’ professional knowledge of their regions and of the national art scene. The jury then meets and chooses its shortlist, with one finalist from each region.
Over its 20-year legacy of supporting artists in Canada, Sobey Art Award past winners have included: Brian Jungen, Annie Pootoogook, Nadia Myre, Ursula Johnson, Kipwani Kiwanga, Stephanie Comilang, and last year’s winner Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory.
The 2023 Sobey Art Award is jointly administered by the National Gallery of Canada and the Sobey Art Foundation.
The idea for the Sobey Art Award arose in 2001, when Donald R. Sobey — then-Chairman of both the Nova Scotia-based Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada Board of Trustees — spoke to former National Gallery Director Pierre Théberge about the Foundation sponsoring an art prize.
Given the lack of major contemporary art prizes in Canada at the time, Théberge was keen on the idea of an award that would raise the prestige and profile of contemporary art and the work of Canadian artists. Sobey agreed, and the Sobey Art Award was born.
Inaugurated in November 2001, the Sobey Art Award was administered for nearly 15 years by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which was instrumental in making the Award what it is today. Since the first award in 2002, it has highlighted the work of over 350 artists, with winners such as Abbas Akhavan, David Altmejd, Brian Jungen, Nadia Myre and Annie Pootoogook, among others. In December 2015, administration of the Sobey Art Award was transferred to the National Gallery of Canada.
On January 29, 2018, the Sobey Art Foundation announced major enhancements to the annual prize structure of the Sobey Art Award. An important gift by the Donald R. Sobey Foundation and re-investment from the Sobey Art Foundation will support targeted funds to directly benefit Canadian artists through the Award.
About the Sobey Art Foundation
With a mandate to carry on the work of entrepreneur and business leader, the late Frank H. Sobey, the Sobey Art Foundation was established in 1981 to collect and preserve representative examples of 19th- and 20th-century Canadian art. The Foundation has since broadened its scope to support contemporary Canadian art through the Sobey Art Award. In one of the finest private collections of its kind, the Sobey Art Foundation has assembled outstanding examples from Canadian masters such as Cornelius Krieghoff, Tom Thomson and J.E.H. MacDonald. The collection is housed at Crombie House, the former home of Frank Sobey and his wife Irene, in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, and is open to the public, free-of-charge.