Recognizing Artistic Merit: 50 years of award-winning artistsBy: ArtBank / 23 March 2023
Imagine having access to artworks by award-winning artists in your office, boardroom or lobby. When the Art Bank was founded 50 years ago, the arts ecosystem in Canada had few established awards. Over the years, the range of awards has grown in number and importance. Today, the Art Bank’s collection includes a wide variety of artworks by prize-winning artists.
The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts are among the most prestigious distinctions for the arts in Canada. Created by the Canada Council for the Arts and Governor General Adrienne Clarkson in 2000 and affectionately dubbed the “GGArts,” these awards have celebrated the career achievements of artists and outstanding contributions to the arts in Canada for close to 25 years. They further the Council’s mission of supporting the arts community nationally.
The GGArts have a maximum of eight awards distributed yearly:
- Six recognize artistic achievement in visual and media arts.
- The Saidye Bronfman Award pays tribute to an exceptional fine-craft artist.
- One other award recognizes an outstanding contribution to visual, media or fine craft arts.
Each winner receives a medallion and a cash prize of $25,000. The Art Bank is honoured to have many past winners represented in the collection including: Carol Condé + Karl Beveridge (2022), Dana Claxton (2020), COZIC (2019), Shelley Niro (2017), Edward Burtynsky (2016), Marcel Barbeau (2013) and many more.
Awards contribute to the arts ecosystem in several ways. They are important for both the public recognition and the financial benefit they bring to artists. They strengthen recipients’ focus and broaden their resources—giving space for increased innovation and enrichment.
Awards give artists a public platform to share their work. With increased awareness come opportunities.
A keen eye for promising artists
Throughout its history, the Canada Council Art Bank has purchased artworks before and after artists have received awards. “That speaks to the strength of the Art Bank’s peer assessment committees,” said Amy Jenkins, Head of the Art Bank. “The sheer number of pieces in our collection by award-winning artists tells us that our committees have always had a good sense of the arts milieu and its prospects.”
The Art Bank’s Peer Assessment Committee is an ever-changing independent body of diverse artists and art administrators from across Canada. Members use care and diligence to choose which artworks the Art Bank purchases. The committee’s endorsement validates the work of the selected artists since peer assessors are themselves members of the arts community.
Award-winning artists in the collection
This year, Ursula Johnson joins the Art Bank’s collection after winning the Sobey Art Award in 2017. Funded by the Sobey Art Foundation (SAF), this award supports the careers of artists in Canada and beyond. Johnson is in good company—many of the newer artists in the Art Bank’s collection have been recognized on the short and long lists for this award in recent years, including:
- Rémi Belliveau
- Krystle Silverfox
- Rydel Cerezo
- Timothy Yanick Hunter
- Maureen Gruben
- Dayna Danger
- Yann Pocreau
Another prestigious Canadian honour is the Audain Prize for the Visual Arts. This prize gives $100,000 to an established artist who has made an outstanding contribution to the visual arts. Winners are often cultural icons in Canada. The Art Bank is proud to be the home of works by many Audain Prize-winners, including James Hart (2021), Takao Tanabe (2013), Liz Magor (2009), and Gordon Smith (2007) to name a few.
Greater access to prestigious artworks
The Art Bank makes art more accessible to everyone in Canada. Clients can choose celebrated pieces from the collection to hang in their boardrooms, display in their offices or adorn their lobbies. “Over the next 50 years, the Art Bank’s rental program will continue to support the arts community in Canada, ensuring that artists from all backgrounds make their mark on the contemporary art world,” said Jenkins.
The Art Bank’s mission is to ensure that the public can have access to artworks that represent the full breadth of contemporary art in Canada.
On March 28, the 2023 GGArts winners will be announced. Stay tuned to learn which Art Bank artists are among the winners.
Ursula Johnson, ITHA Label (2020). Ursula Johnson won the Sobey Art Award in 2017.
Takao Tanabe, Landscape Study # 4 (1972). Takao Tanabe won the Audain Prize in 2013.
Zinnia Naqvi, The Wanderers - Niagara Falls, 1988 (2019). Zinnia Naqvi won the New Generation Photography Award in 2019.
Emmanuel Osahor, A Chair Outside (An artist book - Folio of 7 prints) (2022). Emmanuel Osahor won the Plaskett Award in 2021.
Deanna Bowen, Rupert Lanes (After Wall) (2019). Deanna Bowen won the Scotiabank Photography Award in 2021 as well as the GGArts award in 2020.