Sobey Art Award removes age limit. 2021 Nominations open until March 19, 2021

Sobey Art Award removes age limit. 2021 Nominations open until March 19, 2021 (CNW Group/National Gallery of Canada)

OTTAWA, ON – The Sobey Art Award, now recognized as one of the world’s most generous privately funded prizes for contemporary visual artists, is thrilled to open up the competition to emerging Canadian artists of all ages.

Jointly administered by the Sobey Art Foundation (SAF) and the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), the Award celebrates the careers of emerging Canadian artists through prize money and recognition. The SAF and NGC are pleased to announce a return to an in-person exhibition of the five shortlisted winners after the annual show was cancelled last year due to the pandemic. The exhibition will be presented at the National Gallery during the fall of 2021.

The Sobey Art Award has also increased its long-list award amount from $2,000 to $10,000 per recipient, increasing the total purse from $240,000 to $400,000 annually.

The 2021 Award structure will be:

  • $100,000 to the overall winner as chosen by the jury,
  • $25,000 to each of the four other shortlisted finalists
  • $10,000 to each of the 20 long-listed finalists

An independent jury consisting of curators from five regions (Atlantic, QuebecOntario, Prairies/North, and West Coast/Yukon), as well as two international jurors, will oversee the competition.

The NGC will accept nominations for the Award from recognized agents, artists, and institutions. The NGC will notify the sender by e-mail upon receipt of a nomination package.

Deadline for nominations is extended until Friday, March 19, 2021, no later than 6 p.m. EST

2021 Sobey Art Award Nominations
c/o National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Drive
P.O. Box 427, Station A
Ottawa, ON, K1N 9N4


About the Sobey Art Foundation
The Sobey Art Foundation was established in 1981 to carry on the work of late entrepreneur Frank H. Sobey who was a dedicated collector of Canadian art. The Sobey Art Award, started by the Foundation, ran in 2002, 2004, 2006 before becoming annual in 2007. Since its start in 2002 the Award had an upper age limit of 40. This restriction has been removed for 2021 onward.

About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the largest collection of contemporary Indigenous art in the world, as well as the most important collection of historical and contemporary Canadian and European Art from the 14th to 21st centuries. Founded in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to art for all Canadians. For more information, visit and follow us on TwitterFacebookYouTube and Instagram.


  • Since its inception in 2002, the Sobey Art Award has consistently sought the counsel of jurors and artists associated with its process to improve its annual program and Prize Structure;

  • Each year, artists and jurors have provided valuable insights that have brought the program forward and ensured that it’s best positioned to achieve its mission of advancing public engagement with contemporary Canadian art, both at home and around the world;

  • In recent years, the Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada have heard from some stakeholders that the definition of emerging has evolved to include a constituency of artists whose work finds a foothold after the age of 40;

  • This is a particular sensitivity for the Sobey Art Award as Canada’s pre-eminent contemporary national art prize, as artists from some regions are constrained in their public recognition while others benefit from the density of critical and exhibition opportunities provided by major urban centres;

  • In its aim to stand out as the world’s most inclusive critical art award, the Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada have decided to eliminate all age barriers for nominations;

  • The nomination process is guided by professionals who work closely with their communities and who determine the artists whose work has recently enough found its foothold to be considered emerging;

  • Emerging artists, regardless of age, are recognized within their specific communities, and those who have not yet been recognized at a widespread level;

  • Since its inception, the Sobey Art Award has been a privately funded Art Award and will remain a catalyst for the careers of contemporary Canadian artists. Its goal has not changed.

  • The Sobey Art Award has removed the age requirement. The SAA is not meant to be a lifetime achievement award.

  • With recent changes to the Award to increase the prize structure for participants in the annual process, the SAF and the NGC’s hope is that Canadian artists will not only receive critical acclaim around the world from the Sobey Art Award, but also much-deserved financial recognition for their work.