Indian photographer Gauri Gill was awarded the $50,000 Grange Prize on Tuesday at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario. The Grange Prize is Canada’s largest photography award, and each year two photographers in a partner country are chosen to compete against two Canadian photographers. This year the partner country was India, and Delhi-based Gill beat two Canadian photographers and another Indian photographer for the top prize. The Grange is the only major Canadian art prize to have its winner chosen by the public, and each of the runners-up is also granted $5,000 and an international residency.
Gill is an Indian photographer born in 1970, and her body of work includes a decade-long study of people living in marginalized communities in Rajasthan, India. Her photographs “often address ordinary heroism within challenging environments,” says a statement on behalf of the nominating jury, “depicting the artist’s often-intimate relationships with her subjects with a documentary spirit and a human concern over issues of survival.”
“The Grange Prize is a model of innovation among international art prizes,” says Matthew Teitelbaum, the Michael and Sonja Koerner director, and CEO, Art Gallery of Ontario. “Aeroplan and the AGO founded the prize with the shared desire to create more than a traditional art prize, for both the artists nominated and the audiences experiencing the works. We’re proud to accomplish that via artist-designed residencies and an online vote that gives the viewing public as much say as the experts in deciding what makes great art. I offer my sincere congratulations to Ms. Gill and all of the shortlisted artists.”
Works by all four finalists — Canadians Elaine Stocki and Althea Thauberger, and Indians Gill and Nandini Valli — are currently on view at the AGO in The Grange Prize 2011 Exhibition, on view through Nov. 27. The public was able to vote for their choice inside the exhibition or online at www.thegrangeprize.com, where works by all four artists are still on view. The winner has been selected entirely by public vote, which drew voters from Canada, India, the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Mexico, and China.
The four finalists were selected by a nominating jury comprising AGO acting curator of Canadian art Michelle Jacques; Wayne Baerwaldt, the acting vice president of research and academic affairs at the Alberta College of Art + Design in Calgary; Gayatri Sinha, a Delhi-based art critic and curator; and Sunil Gupta, a photographer, writer and curator born in India and living in New Delhi and London, U.K.
The Grange Prize finalists each receive an international residency, part of the prize’s mandate to foster the development of contemporary photography. Gill and Valli spent three weeks in Toronto in September working in the AGO’s new Artist in Residence studio, researching and creating new work. Stocki and Thauberger plan to travel to India in the New Year. More information about The Grange Prize can be found at thegrangeprize.com.