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AGO and Iskowitz Foundation Partner To Recognize Canadian Artists

January 26th, 2007

The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation and the Art Gallery of Ontario are joining forces to raise awareness of the visual arts in Canada with the renaming of an award established by the foundation 20 years ago.

The Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO, administered by the foundation, will continue to recognize the contributions of Canadian artists and include an exhibition of the recipients’ work at the AGO, accompanied by a publication. In addition, the AGO will become home to the archives of expressionist painter Gershon Iskowitz (1921-1988), which includes sketchbooks, early works on paper and memorabilia.

Gershon Iskowitz at Art Gallery of Ontario Exhibition, 1982
© Art Gallery of Ontario 2007

Created by Iskowitz in 1985 to acknowledge significant contributions by Canadian artists, the prize is awarded by a selection committee that will now include an AGO curator. Past recipients of the $25,000 prize include Janet Cardiff and George Burns Miller, Stan Douglas, Max Dean, Vera Frenkel, Rodney Graham and John Massey.

"Gershon recognized the importance of grants in the evolution of artists," says foundation chair Jeanette Hlinka. "It was a grant that enabled him to achieve his distinctive style. By partnering with the AGO, we elevate the prize’s stature and strengthen the commitment of both organizations to Canadian art and artists."

"The addition of the Iskowitz archives to our collection is a jewel in our crown," says Matthew Teitelbaum, the AGO’s Michael and Sonja Koerner director, and CEO. "We are now the study centre for Gershon Iskowitz, as we are for a number of other important Canadian artists including Michael Snow, Paterson Ewen, Betty Goodwin, Greg Curnoe, Jack Bush and Kazuo Nakamura." The archives complement the 60 Iskowitz works already in the AGO collection – the largest holding of any Canadian museum.

Born in Kielce, Poland in 1921, Iskowitz was a Second World War survivor who briefly studied painting with Oscar Kokoschka in Munich. In 1949 he immigrated to Canada, settled in Toronto and began painting landscapes of the city and Parry Sound. A grant from the Canada Council in 1967 enabled Iskowitz to formalize his expressionistic style. His works have been shown across Canada, the United States and Europe and are part of numerous collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Tel-Aviv Museum and the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art.

The winner of the 2007 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO will be announced in the spring.

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