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Kapwani Kiwanga Wins 2018 Sobey Art Award in Canada

Kapwani Kiwanga.

COURTESY NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA/MIV PHOTOGRAPHY

At a gala tonight at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the 2018 Sobey Art Award was given to Kapwani Kiwanga, the Paris-based artist known for installations that merge anthropology, history, and fictional narratives. The award comes with $100,000 in Canadian dollars (about $75,500 in U.S. dollars).

The Sobey Art Award is given annually to a Canadian artist aged 40 or younger. (Kiwanga hails from Ontario.) Other finalists this year, who will receive $25,000 CAD ($18,900 USD), included Joi T. Arcand, Jordan Bennett, Jeneen Frei Njootli, and Jon Rafman.

Kiwanga’s work often deals with what she has called “multiplicities”—the many forms in which certain ideas or stories appear across a myriad of cultures. Her subjects have included the nationhood of independent African countries, gift-giving as a diplomatic activity, and astronomy.

Earlier this year, Kiwanga won the Frieze art fair’s inaugural $30,000 Frieze Art Award. In February 2019 her work will be the subject of a solo exhibition at the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The jury for this year’s award was chaired by Josée Drouin-Brisebois, the senior curator of contemporary art at the National Gallery of Canada. Other members of this year’s jury include Heather Igloliorte, an independent curator and Concordia University’s research chair in indigenous art history and community engagement; Jean-François Bélisle, executive director and chief curator at the Musée d’art de Joliette; November Paynter, the director of programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto; Kristy Trinier, the executive director at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery; Melanie O’Brian, the director of the Simon Fraser University Galleries; and Séamus Kealy, the director of the Salzburger Kunstverein in Salzburg, Austria.

In a statement, the jury said that Kiwanga “points to fissures in our human narrative. Using archival materials and referencing anthropology, agriculture, and urban design, among other sources, she reveals global effects of the colonial project. In so doing, she addresses hidden authoritarian structures, institutional devices, and power imbalances to help us see the world differently.”

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