Inuit Artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory Wins 2021 Sobey Art Award

November 9th, 2021

Inuit artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory has been announced as the winner of the Sobey Art Award, Canada’s largest contemporary art prize. Her win was revealed November 5 during a ceremony at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan–born artist, whose multivalent practice spans sculpture, dance, poetry, film, video, and performance, will receive C$100,000 (about US $80,000), which she has said she will put in the service of telling Inuit stories, with the input of others. “As an Inuit, stories are often told on your behalf,” she explained from the museum’s stage, as reported in The Art Newspaper. “It’s an incredible opportunity.”

The mother of three called on audience members to “remember the children, the thousands and thousands of Indigenous children,” noting, “We have to hold these children inside us.”

Williamson-Bathory is of Kaalaleq, or Greenlandic Inuk heritage. She lives and works in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and is most widely known for her Greenlandic mask dance, “an idiosyncratic art form,” which the artist characterizes as an act that is political as well as cultural. Her work typically takes as its theme fear, humor, and sexuality. She is a founding member of the Qaggiavuut! Society for a Nunavut Performing Arts Centre, a community-based organization aimed at supporting and elevating Inuit artists.

“Her works invite us to share in a world abundant with possibility infused with the interconnections of land, family, community and cultural knowledge,” said the Sobey Award jury in a collectively penned statemtent.

Representing Canada’s Prairies and northern regions, Williamson-Bathory was chosen from a short list additionally comprising Lorna Bauer (representing Quebec), Rémi Belliveau (Atlantic), Gabi Dao (West Coast and Yukon), and Rajni Perera (Ontario). Each runner-up received C$25,000; as well, each of the twenty artists who made the prize’s original longlist took home C$10,000.

The 2020 Sobey Art Art Award was divided evenly among the twenty-five artists longlisted for the prize, as a concession to the hardships faced by artists as the Covid-19 crisis took hold.