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Valérie Blass Awarded the 2017 Gershon Iskowitz Prize

Valérie Blass(TORONTO November 21, 2017) — The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation in partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is pleased to announce that Valérie Blass is the recipient 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; Liz Magor, artist; Philip Monk, Director of the Art Gallery of York University; and two trustees of the Foundation: Stephan Jost, Michael and Sonja Koerner Director and CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario and collector Jay Smith. In selecting the recipient, the jury 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.

An MFA graduate in visual and media arts from the Université du Québec à Montréal, Valérie Blass lives and works in Montreal. Her work first attracted considerable attention with its inclusion in the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal’s Triennale du Québec in 2008. Significant solo exhibitions have been presented at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto. Recent group exhibitions include National Gallery of Canada (2017), Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Toronto (2017), La Biennale de Montréal (2016), Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg (2016), Oakville Galleries, Oakville, Ontario (2016), Vancouver Art Gallery (2016), Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (2016), Art Gallery of Alberta (2013), Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (2013). In 2012, Blass was commissioned by Public Art Fund for a year-long group exhibition at Metrotech Center, Brooklyn. Blass’s work is in the collections of the Centre national des arts plastiques, France, the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Musée national des beaux arts du Québec, the Royal Bank of Canada, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and many corporate and private collections. Valérie Blass was the recipient of the Prix Ozias-Leduc from the Fondation Émile-Nelligan in 2016, the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton award for Visual Arts in 2012, and the Prix Louis-Comtois from the City of Montreal in 2010.

Thomas Bjarnason, President of the Iskowitz Foundation, noted that Valérie Blass, as this year’s recipient of the Iskowitz Prize, joins a distinguished group of contemporary Canadian artists who have won the Prize since it was first given in 1986. The jury’s decision was carefully considered and unanimous.

Valérie Blass is represented by Catriona Jeffries in Vancouver. Additional details on Valérie Blass’s exhibition at the AGO in 2019 will be announced as they become available.

The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation is a private charitable foundation established in 1986 through the generosity of painter Gershon Iskowitz (1921 – 1988). Iskowitz recognized the importance of grants in the development of artists in Canada, in particular acknowledging that a grant from the Canada Council in 1967 gave him the freedom to create his distinctive style. Iskowitz’s works are in public and private collections across Canada and abroad. The Foundation’s principal activity is the designation of the Prize which is unique in that one can neither apply nor be nominated. A second distinct characteristic which many of the recipients have commented on is that the Prize is an excellent example of an artist supporting other artists. Iskowitz himself was actively involved in designating the Prize in its first years; after his death this responsibility passed to juries composed of trustees of the Foundation and invited artists and curators. The achievements of the first 20 years of the Foundation and the Prize are detailed in The Gershon Iskowitz Prize 1986 – 2006; the work of subsequent winners is included in the Foundation’s web site,

At the 20-year mark of the Prize, the Foundation formed a collaborative partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario to raise awareness of the importance of the Prize and through it, the visual arts in Canada. The AGO is home to Iskowitz’s archives, which include early works on paper, sketchbooks and memorabilia, and it holds 29 paintings by Iskowitz spanning 1948 to 1987 in its collection. Beginning in 2006, the Prize has included a solo exhibition of the winner’s work at the Gallery. Among the 29 previous recipients of the Prize are Liz Magor, Betty Goodwin, General Idea, Stan Douglas, John Massey, Irene F. Whittome, Françoise Sullivan, Geoffrey Farmer, Brian Jungen, Michael Snow, Rebecca Belmore and Kim Adams.

Located in Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of the largest art museums in North America. The AGO’s collection of close to 95,000 works ranges from cutting-edge contemporary art such as Untilled by Pierre Huyghe to European masterpieces such as Peter Paul Rubens’s The Massacre of The Innocents; from the vast collection by the Group of Seven to works by established and emerging Indigenous Canadian artists; with a photography collection that tracks the impact of the medium with deep holdings of works by artists such as Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus; and with focused collections in Gothic boxwood miniatures and Western and Central African art. Drawing on this collection—as well as collaborations with museums around the world—the AGO presents wide-ranging exhibitions and programs, taking special care to showcase diverse and underrepresented artists. A major expansion designed by Frank Gehry in 2008 with lead support from the family of Ken Thomson makes the AGO a highly-photographed architectural landmark. Visit to learn more. The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.

Photo: Maryse Larivière


For press inquiries, please contact:

Nancy Hushion, Executive Director, Gershon Iskowitz Foundation

Carly Maga, AGO Communications Officer