GG's New Media and Visual Arts Awards Announced ...
... and you are forgiven for the inevitable headscratch.The Feds hand this out every year, at $25,000 a head, to a group of Canadians working either directly or obliquely in the visual realm, most of whom you probably haven't heard of.
While there have, of course, been notable exceptions -- Arnaud Maggs and Ian Carr-Harris in recent years among them -- the GG's are a somewhat odd version of a lifetime achievement award -- the achievement usually being endurance, rather than distinction.
This is meant as no slight to the winners -- I'm actually a fan of Gordon Smith's work, and Ray Moriyami's firm has done some important Canadain buildings, including the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.They're all to be commended for their dedication, to be sure; a life in the arts is not an easy one.
But it always leaves me wondering just what we're celebrating here. The GG's seem to deliberately eschew succesful artists at the peak of mid-career -- where's Rodney Graham? Jeff Wall? Ed Burtynsky? -- largely favouring instead a raft of artists closer to the end of a long, and largely less public road.
And I wonder, with the electric charge an award like the now-annual Sobey's Prize has given the Canadian art scene, giving our bonafide rising stars high profile and spurring on a vital new generation, if maybe this is a little too institutionally polite and thereby counter-productive. Endurance is to be respected; but is it really something to celebrate?
Anyway, I hate being negative about all this, and I congratulate the winners on their accomplishments -- particularly Tony Urquhart and Kim Ondaatje, co-founders of CARFAC, an artists alliance that established artists' exhibition fees back in the 60s. From the web site of the Canada Council, they are:
For artistic achievement:
Sculpture artist John Greer
Sculptor, musician, and performer Nobuo Kubota
Interdisciplinary artist Rita McKeough
Filmmaker Robert Morin
Architect Raymond Moriyama
Painter Gordon Smith
Glass sculptor Kevin Lockau receives the Saidye Bronfman Award for excellence in the fine crafts, while Tony Urquhart and Kim Ondaatje share the outstanding contribution award for their work in establishing CARFAC.