Inuit performance artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory has been selected as the 2021 recipient of the Sobey Art Award, Canada’s top art award. Bathory plans to use the funds to support her art practice.
The award comes with 100,000 Canadian dollars ($80,000), and is distributed by the Sobey Art Foundation. Alongside Bathory, four shortlisted artists—Lorna Bauer, Rémi Belliveau, Gabi Dao, and Rajni Perera—have been selected to receive awards of 25,000 Canadian dollars ($20,000) each. The recipients of the prize were announced during a ceremony at the National Gallery of Canada on Saturday.
“The last two years have been an unprecedented period of restrictions around human interactions, impacting the practices of contemporary artists across Canada and around the world,” said Rob Sobey, chair of the Sobey Art Foundation.”Our Foundation applauds the commitment and resilience of all practicing artists across Canada throughout this period.”
Bathory has received acclaim for her performance art, which centers around the traditional Inuit Greenlandic mask dance, known as uaajeerneq, and deals with concepts derived from feminism and Indigenous history. Issues surrounding land use and ownership play a key role in her art.
“In a time when we recognize that this Canadian soil bears the small bodies of many thousands of Indigenous children, in an era when we work through colonial institutions to keep our families safe in the pandemic and at a moment when the Arctic city I live does not have potable water coming from the taps, I am proud to be recognized as I tell you the story of a momentous experience my family had on the land,” Bathory said in a statement.
The Sobey Art Foundation is a charitable nonprofit established by grocery chain magnate Donald R. Sobey in 1981. Since its inaugural prize in 2002, recipients of the award have included Abbas Akhavan, David Altmejd, Brian Jungen, Nadia Myre and Annie Pootoogook, among others.
A jury of Canadian and international curators selected Bathory, who represents the country’s Prairies and North Region, alongside 25 other shortlisted artists representing five of the designated regions of Canada—the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies and the North, and the West Coast and Yukon. Artworks from all five 2021 Sobey Art Award shortlisted artists are currently featured in an exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada until February 20, 2022.