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Celebrated painter and printmaker Takao Tanabe creates new award for emerging Canadian artists

by ahnationtalk on March 13, 2018200 Views

March 13, 2018

The $15,000 annual prize has already funded the purchase of two artworks for the National Gallery of Canada’s national collection

Once a year, the National Gallery of Canada will receive $15,000 from artist Takao Tanabe to recognize an up and coming Canadian artist through the purchase of their work for the national collection.

To date, the Takao Tanabe Purchase Prize in Painting for Young Artists has gifted $30,000, enabling the purchase of works from lessLIE, a multimedia Coast Salish artist of Cowichan, Penelakut, Esquimalt, Irish, Italian, and French descent, and Cynthia Girard-Renard, a visual artist and poet from Montreal, Quebec. Both artworks are currently on view at the National Gallery of Canada.

“We are honoured to partner with Takao Tanabe, among our most admirable painters, to help advance the careers of young Canadian artists,” said National Gallery of Canada Director and CEO, Marc Mayer. “Through this partnership, we will be including outstanding work by our emerging generation into the national collection and make them available to the whole country.”

Takao Tanabe was born in Prince Rupert, British Columbia in 1926. A celebrated painter and printmaker, he is most famously known for his minimalist landscapes that inspire contemplation. A long-time advocate for the arts, he studied in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia with influential figures including Joseph Plaskett, Hans Hofmann and Reuben Tam. A member of the Order of Canada, Tanabe is also the recipient of the 2003 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, and the 2013 Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts. Tanabe’s paintings Meeting (1963), Envelope Sketch (1967), Shuttleworth Sunset (1997) and Dawn (2003) are in the National Gallery of Canada collection.

On his motivation for establishing the prize, Tanabe said: “When I was a young artist I was lucky enough to receive grants, including the Emily Carr Foundation Scholarship, which allowed me to go to Europe to study in 1953. Today, I can afford to help up-and-coming artists in a similar way, and it’s a great pleasure to be able to do so.”

The works for purchase are selected by the Gallery’s curators and approved through a rigorous acquisition process that ensures they meet set criteria. For its first purchase, the Gallery selected wHOLE w(((h)))orl(((d))) (2013) by lessLIE. A graduate of Malaspina University-College with a Bachelor of Arts in First Nations Studies, lessLIE focuses on Coast Salish iconography in his art, often with a contemporary twist. The painting currently on view in the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries, is acrylic on canvas and depicts a human figure surrounded by wolves, salmon and thunderbirds. Inspired by the forms and movements of a spindle whorl, using only black and white tones, the piece also speaks to lessLIE’s exploration of positive and negative space.

The Gallery’s second purchase is a work by Montreal-based artist Cynthia Girard-Renard. Girard-Renard completed her Master of Fine Arts at London’s Goldsmith College, and is the recipient of grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and Conseil des art et des lettres du Quebec. Her work, No Foreigners (2016), is a colourful acrylic on canvas depicting dogs, snakes, butterflies, snails and an architectural fortress. Although her palette reads as playful, the content of Girard-Renard’s work is borne in reaction to current events and summons art historical traditions of social satire and caricature – in this case offering critical commentary on anti-immigration rhetoric. The painting is featured in the 2017 Canadian Biennial exhibition on view in the Special Exhibitions Galleries until March 18, 2018.

The Takao Tanabe Purchase Prize in Painting for Young Artists will be administered through the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, a not-for-profit charity established in 1997 and dedicated to supporting the National Gallery of Canada and Canada’s cultural heritage through grants, gifts, endowments and bequests.

“Takao Tanabe’s leadership and generosity as a senior Canadian artist, reaching to support a younger generation is very inspiring,” said National Gallery of Canada Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Karen Colby-Stothart. “We are pleased to facilitate this new prize that offers welcome support to the country’s up-and-coming talent.”

lessLIE’s artwork will be on view in the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries until 2019 and Cynthia Girard-Renard’s work is on display until March 18th in the Special Exhibitions Galleries. The third Takao Tanabe Purchase Prize in Painting for Young Artists will be announced in 2019.

About the National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada’s premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st centuries, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. In 2015, the National Gallery of Canada established the Canadian Photography Institute, a global multidisciplinary research center dedicated to the history, evolution and future of photography. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @NatGalleryCan.

About the National Gallery of Canada Foundation

The National Gallery of Canada Foundation is dedicated to supporting the National Gallery of Canada in fulfilling its mandate. By fostering strong philanthropic partnerships, the Foundation provides the Gallery with the additional financial support required to lead Canada’s visual arts community locally, nationally and internationally. The blend of public support and private philanthropy empowers the Gallery to preserve and interpret Canada’s visual arts heritage. The Foundation welcomes present and deferred gifts for special projects and endowments. To learn more about the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, visit and follow us on Twitter @NGC_Foundation.


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For more information, please contact:

Josée-Britanie Mallet
Senior Media and Public Relations Officer
National Gallery of Canada


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