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Canadian Artist Wins $40K Prize at Art Basel

The 18th Baloise Art Prize, valued at 30,000 Swiss Francs or roughly $40,000 Canadian, has been awarded to Brooklyn-based Canadian artist Sara Cwynar.

The prize win was decided by an international jury at Art Basel in Switzerland, where Cwynar is exhibiting in the fair’s Statements section.

Cwynar, who was born in 1985 in Vancouver, and studied literature at the University of British Columbia and design at York University before moving to the US, is known for innovative work in photography and video.

For Soft Film, her award-winning video at Art Basel, Cwynar produced what the Baloise jury called “an entertaining and yet complex inquiry into fundamental aspects of photography, in particular its production and dissemination in digital and analog systems.”

Largely filmed in 16-mm format, Soft Film links performative elements with reflections on the construction of the photographic image.

As a Baloise press release notes, “Cwynar buys cast-off objects on eBay and purchases photographs in a second-hand store. These she organizes and archives by colour, material and subject matter. Social concerns, such as the circulation and value of objects, as well as feminist issues and the significance of personal incidents and historical events all come into play. The artist poses crucial questions about what photographed imagery means to us today both individually and socially. In so doing, she deploys an aesthetics that varies from the deliberate parading of a do-it-yourself character to the seductive power of professional advertising.”

Cwynar was honoured alongside acclaimed American artist Mary Reid Kelly, who also won a Baloise Art Prize this year for This is Offal, a film related to female suicide.

Sara Cwynar’s art at the Swiss fair was brought by New York gallery Foxy Production. Her work is also currently on view in “L’image volée,” an exhibition curated by Thomas Demand at the Prada Foundation in Milan, on until August 21.

This fall, Cwynar’s work will be on view in Canada at Toronto’s Cooper Cole (from October 29 to December 10). She also has an artist project in the Fall 2016 issue of Canadian Art.

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