"It’s Still an Unbelievable Thing": Raphaëlle de Groot Wins 2012 Sobey Art Award

"It’s Still an Unbelievable Thing": Raphaëlle de Groot Wins 2012 Sobey Art Award
(Raphaelle de Groot is winner of the 2012 Sobey Art Award.)

Speaking to a packed lobby at MOCCA, Friday night, and peering over its standing-room-only champagne tent, the curatorial panel for the 2012 Sobey Art Award declared Quebec nominee, Raphaëlle de Groot, the recipient of this year’s $50,000 award. The announcement was made during a gala event to celebrate the Award's 10th anniversary, held in Toronto and hosted by Karen Kain, artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada.

The award was presented to the winning artist by last year’s Sobey winners, Daniel Young and Christian Giroux.

This year’s shortlisted artists, Gareth Moore, Jason de Haan, Derek Sullivan, and Eleanor Kingstood on the podium as De Groot was named, and appreciation was bestowed. Each of these artists receives $5,000 in prize money from the Sobey Art Foundation.

Speaking with ARTINFO Canada from her home in Montreal, Sunday night, De Groot was thrilled, if a little shocked. “I’m not sure what this means yet," she reflected, "but I’m feeling great." 

The award came as a surprise to the mixed media artist, but not so much as it would have four years ago, when De Groot was first nominated. “I was a finalist in 2008, and at the time I really wasn’t expecting anything from the situation," De Groot reflected. "I just felt very lucky to be there.” However, she says, “this time, I felt my work would be scrutinized a lot more. That it couldn’t just be put aside. So I am less surprised than I would have been in 2008, but at the same time – it’s still an unbelievable thing, even when I look at it from a broader perspective.”

In commenting on De Groot's achievement, the Sobey Art Award’s 2012 curatorial committee, which included curatorial representatives from the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where the award is based, and David Liss, artistic director and curator of MOCCA, among others, said:

"Raphaëlle de Groot makes artwork in varied contexts, most often outside of the conventional art world. This process affords her the opportunity to meet people from different milieus, such as a community of nuns, workers at a textile factory, domestic workers, and students. Through her practice, we are called on to be active witnesses, intrigued by what we see, disturbed by what we discover of ourselves and by what is revealed to us in this encounter with art and the artist in the present. Her projects take the shape of actions, objects, images, and documentation. De Groot's practice explores and challenges ways in which art is created and received. Her work reinforces common values and shared human experiences."

De Groot pardoned herself from the phone, Sunday night, at the beckoning of her son, who wanted to dance. "The prize is an amount of money in the present time, but it’s also recognition. It means more projects to come," she said, finally. 


The 2012 Sobey Art Award shortlist exhibition is on view at MOCCA until December 30, 2012.

See ARTINFO Canada’s interviews with De Groot here, as well as those with the Sobey finalists Eleanor King, Derek Sullivan, and Jason de Haan (Gareth Moore declined a feature). See our review of the uncanny similarities among this year’s shortlist here.