Former resident and exhibition artist wins Canada’s most prestigious art award.

Installation view of ‘Study for a Garden’ an exhibition by Abbas Akhavan at Delfina Foundation, 9 October – 20 November 2012. Courtesy Delfina Foundation. Photo: Christa Holka

Former resident Toronto-based artist Abbas Akhavan has won the 2015 Sobey Art Award, at $50,000 one of the richest purses in the Canadian art world. The Tehran-born Akhavan, 38, prevailed over four other finalists to take the juried prize at a ceremony on Wednesday evening at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax.  Delfina Foundation has worked with Abbas over the last five years through residencies in Dubai and London, commissions and exhibitions, most notably his first solo show in London, Study for a Garden.

The Sobey was started in 2002 by the Sobey Art Foundation, which is based in Nova Scotia, as a way to recognize the best in Canadian contemporary art. Initially awarded every two years, it has been handed out annually since 2006 to an artist under 40 who has exhibited work in a public or commercial gallery within 18 months of being nominated. Akhavan, who came to Canada with his family in the late 1980s at the end of the Iran-Iraq War, was among the five finalists for the 2015 prize announced in June this year, based on nominations submitted in February.

Akhavan, who obtained a BFA in studio arts/art history from Montreal’s Concordia University in 2004, and an MFA from the University of British Columbia in 2006, works in a variety of idioms – installation art, video, drawing, painting, sculpture and performance – often with a political and elegiac cast.