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The Sobey Art Award is one of Canada’s most important contemporary art prizes, bringing together six talented artists in the shortlist exhibition. Adrian Lee talks to three hopefuls about what the nomination means to them.

click to enlarge Zeke Moores’ cat-friendly Bronze Boxes. - STEVE FARMER

Halifax's rich and diverse arts community makes it a logical host to the downright kaleidoscopic Sobey Art Award, one of Canada's most prestigious contemporary art prizes. The shortlist features six artists under the age of 40 from five different regions, and until January, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia will show an exhibit of their works. It's a beautifully curated show that tells a coherent narrative about where Canadian art is right now, a remarkable achievement considering the spectrum of works: from stark projected photograms to a video showcase of Toronto's staid urban design to a port-a-potty cast in brilliant chrome steel. But this year, Halifax plays more than just host; three of the shortlisted have studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

MANON DE PAUW (Quebec): I was at home, I remember---I was doing my taxes, and my accountant was there, and when I told him, he said, "Oh, that's great, because it's an award, so you don't have to declare it as an income."

CHRISTIAN GIROUX (Ontario): That's funny---I can't remember what I was doing. But I dropped whatever it was and took a nice long walk to calm myself down.

ZEKE MOORES (Atlantic/Newfoundland): Even being on the list for the Sobey does impact your career very quickly. The day the longlist was announced, I got about five calls from galleries asking me if I was interested in representation.

DE PAUW: I've got more studio business, more people acquiring my work for private collections.

GIROUX: It does change things. It puts you in the eye of the Canadian art world, in a way like no other in our Canadian system, so that's quite a rush.

DE PAUW: When I was doing my undergrad at Concordia sixteen years ago, I came for a summer term to study at NSCAD.

GIROUX: I graduated in the spring of '95...I did my graduate work there.

MOORES: Did my undergrad there.

DE PAUW: I actually took my first technical video class at NSCAD, so for me to go back now to show some of my video work, it's very important.

GIROUX: Halifax is a perfect city to be a grad student in, and I have a lot of fantastic memories, so it's been a very lovely homecoming for me, to come back for the show.

MOORES: It shows the huge influence that NSCAD as a school has had on the contemporary arts scene. When I go somewhere to show, people automatically know I'm from NSCAD, even if they haven't read my bio. They look at my work, and they say, "NSCAD, right?" And I say, "You got me." I think I have that very specific NSCAD aesthetic...for me, in sculpture, that aesthetic is a sense of Canadian realism in an object-based work.

DE PAUW: Of course, everybody wants to win, but even if I don't get the prize, it's still an extremely positive experience, you know?

GIROUX: Just being on the Sobey shortlist constitutes a profound sense of recognition.

MOORES: The day I found out I made the longlist, I already felt like I won the award. And then when I found out I made the shortlist, I was flabbergasted. It's...reaffirming that what I'm doing as an artist is successful, that people are responding.

Sobey Art Award exhibition, To January 8, 2012, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 1723 Hollis Street

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