The 2019 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), which is presented annually to an artist who has made an outstanding contribution to the visual arts in Canada, has been awarded to Ken Lum. Administered by the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation in partnership with the museum, the honor comes with a $38,000 cash prize and a solo exhibition at the AGO that will be staged within the next two years. “The circumstances of Gershon Iskowitz’s life make him an exemplar of humaneness and global citizenry,” said Lum. “I am honored to be consider worthy of a prize began by and named after him.”
Born in Vancouver, Lum is a multidisciplinary artist known for his conceptual and representational work in painting, sculpture, and photography. Through his practice, Lum draws attention to issues of identity in relation to language, portraiture, and spatial politics. His work has been featured in international exhibitions such as the Whitney Biennial, Documenta, the Venice Biennale, the Sao Paolo Biennial, and the Shanghai Biennale and has been showcased in solo exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Luzern in Switzerland, the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, and the Lenbachhaus Museum in Munich.
Since the mid-1990s, Lum has also worked on numerous permanent public art commissions including installations for the cities of Vienna; Zuoz, Switzerland; Rotterdam; St. Louis; and Utrecht, the Netherlands; and Toronto. A longtime educator, Lum currently holds an endowed professorship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design in Philadelphia where he also serves as chair of the department of fine arts. He is also the founding editor and cofounder of Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art.
The 2019 prize jury comprised Catherine Bedard, curator and deputy director of the Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris; Naomi Potter, director and curator at the Esker Foundation, Calgary; Geoffrey James, artist, winner of the 2002 Gershon Iskowitz Prize, and museum trustee; and Stephan Jost, director and CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario and trustee of the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation.
Commenting on Lum’s career, Potter said, “Engaged in art making, writing, teaching, curation, and leadership, he continues to advocate for thoughtful negotiations of social and political conversations both inside and outside of the art world. His personal reflections on identity and belonging, social justice, and the value of pedagogy makes his outstanding contributions, regardless of medium, absolutely worthy of this prize.”