I visited the annual exhibition of five finalists in Canada’s $50,000 Sobey Art Prize today, which is about to open at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art on Oct 24th and will continue to December 30th. (A launch party will be held on October 27 from 8-10pm.) As always, one artist has been shortlisted from each of Canada’s regions: West Coast/Yukon; Prairies and the North; Ontario; Quebec and Atlantic.
They are: Raphaelle de Groot (Quebec), Jason de Haan (Prairies/North), Eleanor King (Atlantic), Derek Sullivan (Ontario) and Gareth Moore (West Coast/Yukon). It’s always nice to see work by some of the best young artists from across the country in one show. And it’s amazing of the Sobey Art Foundation to support the arts this way. Although the works were still being installed when I was there, this year one thing that struck me is how in some way, each of the artist’s practices have their roots outside the gallery setting. That is, instead of the work moving from studio to museum, it’s as if it has moved from the larger outside world into the museum. In that sense, it seems to sit a bit awkwardly. But the curator Sarah Fillmore has created a sophisticated-looking exhibition, so aesthetically I thought it looked great.
The art prize is chosen by five curators, based on the practice of each artist, not just one or two particular works. At first, I found it challenging to assess the exhibition just on the individual works, but once I did a walk through with Fillmore, it became easier. I was most intrigued by the work of three of the five artists. Quebec artist Raphaelle de Groot bases much of her work in communities, where she engages with people – in the case of her work on view, she had accumulated objects from people that she had sewn into a kind of magical looking coat. Though I felt that her piece, which was titled ‘Le Poids des Objets’ (the weight of objects) could have carried a little more…weight.
I’ve known Derek Sullivan for several years and find his work to be highly conceptual, but in a sort of maximalist kind of way. I have always admired the participatory piece Endless Kiosk, for which two smaller, moquette-like sculptures were represented here. The effect of Endless Kiosk is to extend the work by the famous sculptor Brancusi, Endless Column, by conflating it with the traditional advertising kiosks of Paris. The public is invited to attach their own posters and stickers to the column so that it grows in width, rather than height. I must admit that Sullivan’s other work in the Sobey exhibition sort of eluded me.
My feeling, however, is that the top prize may go to Berlin-based artist Gareth Moore.