InstitutionsArtists 26-10-2017

The 2017 Sobey Art Award goes to Ursula Johnson

The 2017 Sobey Art Award went to artist Ursula Johnson, who was presented with the prize during a ceremony held on October 25 at the Art Museum at the University Toronto.

For the first time in its history, the 2017 edition of Canada’s most prestigious prize for artists under 40 was largely dominated by women, with only one man appearing in the shortlist. In addition, two indigenous artists — Johnson herself and Raymond Boisjoly. Other finalists included: Jacynthe Carrier (Québec), Bridget Moser (Ontario) and Divya Mehra. (Manitoba; India; New York)

Through performance and installation, Ursula Johnson's work "engages with strategies of duration and display to interrogate outdated ethnographic and anthropological approaches to understanding Indigenous cultural practices." She was saluted by the jury “for her strong voice, her generosity and collaborative spirit. Through her work, she redefines traditional materials and re-imagines colonized histories.”

This year, the Sobey Art Award’s cash prize was doubled; the $110,000 prize money — significantly larger than most prizes — will be split as follows: Ursula Johnson will receive $50,000, while fellow finalists will receive $10,000. Longlisted artists will also benefit from a $1,000 prize.


Ursula Johnson, Ode to Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, 2016, yellow and grey birch bark, 140 lb acid-free watercolour paper, pH neutral adhesive, black ash ribbon, sweetgrass, maple wood, gold spray-painted metal garment rack on casters, antique wooden garment hanger with brass hook, 198 × 122 × 162.5 cm, Photo: Karen Asher


From October 24 through December 9, a special exhibition of works by the shortlisted artists will be on show at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto.

Established in 2002, the award was given biennially until 2006. Since 2006, the prize was given out annually. Previous laureates include: Brian Jungen, (2002) Jean-Pierre Gauthier, (2004) Annie Pootoogook,  (2006) Michel de Broin, (2007) Time Lee, (2008) David Altmejd, (2009) Daniel Barrow, (2010) Daniel Young & Christian Giroux, (2011) Raphaëlle de Groot, (2012) Duane Linklater, (2013) Nadia Myre, (2014) Abbas Akhavan (2015) and Jeremy Shaw. (2016)


Ursula Johnson, Hot Looking, 2014, durational performance-based installation with delegated performer and looped audio, variable dimensions, Photo: Michael Wasnidge


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