Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory wins Canada’s 2021 Sobey Art Award

“As an Inuk, an artist, a mother and a family member, I can only tell you my story and this one is joy and celebration, awe and difficulty, beauty and destruction all at once,” said Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory upon winning the 2021 Sobey Art Award. (Chickweed Arts/Jamie Griffiths/National Gallery of Canada)

Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory has won Canada’s prestigious 2021 Sobey Art Award, the second Inuk artist to receive the honour since the prize’s inception.

“Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory provocatively transforms the framework of references for contemporary art,” the 2021 Sobey Art Award jury, said in a news release on Saturday.

“Williamson Bathory’s performance practice courageously defies preconceived notions through embodied lived experience. Her works invite us to share in a world abundant with possibility infused with the interconnections of land, family, community and cultural knowledge.” 

Williamson Bathory wasn’t immediately available for an interview on Monday, but in a statement released on the weekend, she said the award was an important recognition of Inuit culture and story. 

“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,” she said. 

As an Inuk, an artist, a mother and a family member, I can only tell you my story and this one is joy and celebration, awe and difficulty, beauty and destruction all at once. Qujannamiik, thank you for this incredible prize.” 

$100,000 prize

The Sobey Art Award is one of Canada most prestigious art awards. Started in 2002, the award set out to recognize emerging contemporary Canadian artists under 40 years old. But this year, citing pressures on the contemporary Canadian art community as the country moves into year two of the pandemic, the age limit was lifted.

For the purposes of the award, Canada is divided into five regions, with five artists from each region making up the longlist.

The five regions are: West Coast and Yukon; Prairies and North, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic.

One finalist is chosen from each region.

“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 practising artists across Canada throughout this period. On our collective behalf, I’d like to extend our gratitude to the record number of artists from across the country who were nominated by their peers for the 2021 Sobey, Their work is a testament to the power and significance of art. We are honoured to be able to see and celebrate the work, careers and creativity of such an incredible group of artists.”

National Gallery of Canada

The Sobey winner received $100,000, the four short-listed finalists received $25,000, with the remaining artists on the longlist receiving $10,000 each.

Works by the winner and four short-listed finalists are also featured in an exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada until February 20, 2022.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Artist Tarralik Duffy named 2021 winner of Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *