On Tuesday, art collector and philanthropist Michael Audain announced that his namesake prize for BC artists would be boosted to $100,000 per year. It was formerly $30,000 for the top prize.
“We are increasing the value of the Audain Prize award because we want our leading artists to become better known,” Audain said in a release. “After all, British Columbia has some wonderful visual artists, and many are not as widely recognized as they should be.”
This makes the Audain Prize match the winnings of the Sobey Art Award—which in 2018 announced it was raising its prize from $50,000 to $100,000.
“Recently, I have spent some time in Quebec and found that their cultural heroes, such as Celine Dion and Jean Paul Riopelle, are well-known throughout the length and breadth of that province,” said Audain in his release. “I don’t see why we shouldn’t have that level of pride in BC. We have some of the world’s best contemporary artists, yet is the man or woman on the street in Kelowna or Prince George aware of Jeff Wall or Rodney Graham? Maybe they have heard of Emily Carr, but otherwise I doubt it.”
Indeed, Rodney Graham and Jeff Wall are past recipients of the Audain Prize, which honours lifetime achievement in the visual arts. Other past winners include Liz Magor, Robert Davidson, Gathie Falk, Fred Herzog and Susan Point.
In another big move, the prize is also moving from the Vancouver Art Gallery, which has administrated it since 2004, to a different namesake project of Audain’s—the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, BC, roughly 90 minutes’ drive from Vancouver.
Opened in 2016, the Audain Art Museum houses a large portion of the art collection that Michael Audain and his wife Yoshiko Karasawa amassed over the past 40 years.
But Michael Audain says he is still a supporter of the Vancouver Art Gallery—where he was once chair of the board, and is now, according to the Vancouver Art Gallery website, ex-officio honorary chairman.
“As the Audain Prize will now be managed by the Audain Art Museum, it has been agreed that the $1.5 million endowment established at the Vancouver Art Gallery for this purpose will be added to the Audain Emerging Artists Acquisition Fund at the Gallery, increasing it to $3.5 million,” adds Audain in the release.
Audain Art Museum director Curtis Collins says that it makes sense for the Audain Prize to be managed by the Whistler museum because “our museum specializes in art by British Columbia artists,” and is “unique” in that respect.
In another new move, the Audain Foundation plans to fund five $7,500 travel grants for students in university-level visual arts programs. Details are to be released in coming months.
The Audain Prize ceremony will take place on September 23 at a location yet to be finalized.