Valérie Blass is the winner of the 2017 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO.
The award, which is presented annually to an artist who has made an outstanding contribution to the visual arts in Canada, includes a $50,000 cash prize and a solo exhibition at the AGO within two years.
Jurors for the 2017 Prize were Stéphane Aquin, director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (and formerly of the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal); Liz Magor, artist; Philip Monk, director of the Art Gallery of York University; and two trustees of the foundation: Stephan Jost, director and CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Jay Smith, collector.
The jury members were unanimous in “being impressed by the ability of Blass’s work to spark curiosity; she engages in the history of sculpture, yet her work is very accessible. It addresses perennial challenges in sculpture while at the same time bringing new perspectives.” The group noted that Blass’s work develops through experience, not theory, and her tendency to draw upon mythical objects.
Valérie Blass lives and works in Montreal, where she was born in 1967. She was in her mid-twenties when she began BFA studies at l’Université du Québec a Montréal, and she was in her late thirties when she returned and completed her MFA in 2006. Her work first attracted considerable attention in the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal’s Triennale du Québec in 2008. Significant exhibitions since have included the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, the Biennale de Montréal, and the Canadian Biennial.
The Gershon Iskowitz Prize was established in 1986 through Canadian painter Gershon Iskowitz. The prize is unique in that one can neither apply nor be nominated. In 2006, the prize joined the AGO—home to Iskowitz’s archives—in a partnership that includes a major exhibition for the winner.
Previous winners include Liz Magor, Betty Goodwin, General Idea, Brian Jungen and Stan Douglas, among others.