About the Award Commission
Since 2008 Toronto Arts Foundation has commissioned the creation of an original artwork for the Toronto Arts Foundation Awards. Made in the form of a plate, the original artwork is presented annually at the Mayor’s Arts Lunch to award recipients.
The award plate is produced in a multiple of ten, with the first five in the edition being presented to award recipients. The commissioning program enables the Foundation to support the development of new work and to further recognize the contributions of its award recipients with original art by some of Toronto's most important visual artists.
Scroll through this page to see award commissions dating back to 2008.
About the Ceramicist: Alexx Boisjoli
Alexx Boisjoli runs a small production studio based in Toronto. Trained in design and craft, he explores functional wares and graphic goods as part of his professional practice. His experience in producing ceramic decals has allowed him to work with the Toronto Arts Foundation for seven years running.
The 2021 award plate was designed by Esmaa Mohamoud.
About Esmaa Mohamoud: Esmaa Mohamoud (Canadian, b. 1992), is a Toronto-based African-Canadian artist. She holds a BFA from Western University (2014) and an MFA from OCAD University (2016). Recently, Mohamoud has exhibited in at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Montreal, and the University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities Gallery, USA. Upcoming exhibitions include: To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat, travelling from Museum London to: Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ottawa Art Gallery and Winnipeg Art Gallery and Garmenting: Costume and Contemporary Art, curated by Dr. Alexandra Schwartz, Ph.D., Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY, USA.
The 2020 award plate was designed by Luis Jacob
About the plate: Luis Jacob's plate shows the artist's hand in the act of opening a book. The book is Jesse Edgar Middleton's The Municipality of Toronto: A History, published in 1923. Printed words dedicate Middleton's book -- and Jacob's new artwork, created almost a century after the book was published -- "To the Citizens of Toronto - Past and Present". Connecting different tenses of time which are rooted in the same place, "The Dedication" celebrates an awareness of historical reversal: we, who are present today, will one day have been a thing of the past.
About Luis Jacob: Based in Toronto, Luis Jacob’s work destabilizes viewing conventions and invites collisions of meaning. Since participating in documenta12 in 2007, he has achieved an international reputation — with exhibitions at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, and the Toronto Biennial of Art (2019); Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2018); Museion, Bolzano, Italy (2017); La Biennale de Montréal (2016); Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York (2015); Taipei Biennial (2012); Generali Foundation, Vienna (2011); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010); and Hamburg Kunstverein (2008). In 2016 he curated the exhibition “Form Follows Fiction: Art and Artists in Toronto” at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto.
The 2019 award plate was designed by Rajni Perera.
About Rajni Perera: Rajni Perera was born in Sri Lanka in 1985 and lives and works in Toronto. She explores issues of hybridity, sacrilege, irreverence, the indexical sciences, ethnography, gender, sexuality, popular culture, deities, monsters and dream worlds. All of these themes marry in a newly objectified realm of mythical symbioses. They are flattened on the medium and made to act as a personal record of impossible discoveries. In her work she seeks to open and reveal the dynamism of these icons, both scripturally existent, self-invented and externally defined. She creates a subversive aesthetic that counteracts antiquated, oppressive discourse, and acts as a restorative force through which people can move outdated, repressive modes of being towards reclaiming their power.
The 2018 award plate was designed by Syrus Marcus Ware.
About the plate: “I have been creating very large-scale portraits of activists/revolutionaries/community mobilizers as a way of celebrating activists’ culture, activists’ lives and as a way of understanding activisms. These portraits are an act of reverence, a celebration of life and of choice and of action(s). I began exploring portraiture and painting also as a way of painting my community into art history, and as a way to document my reality. I have been drawn to portraiture to render invisible lives visible: Trans activists, political heroes, people with disabilities painted large in a style and medium previously reserved for dignitaries, and wealthy patrons. The artistic tradition of painting is impacted in re-enforcing systemic structures such as class hierarchies, racism and defining which humans are valuable. My work attempts to interrupt this process by re-centering the frame around ‘unintelligible bodies’, those on the margins” – Syrus Marcus Ware.
About Syrus Marcus Ware: Syrus Marcus Ware is a Vanier Scholar, a visual artist, a community activist, a researcher and an educator. Syrus’s work in drawing, performance art and installation explores social justice frameworks and black activist culture. Syrus is a core-team member of both Black Lives Matter-Toronto and Blackness Yes!/Blockorama. Syrus has won several awards, including the Toronto Arts Foundation TD Arts Diversity Award in 2017. Syrus is currently a PhD candidate at York University in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.
For more information on Syrus Marcus Ware, please go to: syrusmarcusware.com
The 2017 award plate was designed by Kent Monkman
About the plate: The Resilience Plate is one of the artworks created for the Shame and Prejudice Exhibition: A Story of Resilience. It’s based on the commemorative plates celebrating Canada’s Centennial that were curated and displayed as part of an installation titled “Starvation Table.” Resilience Plate is to commemorate 150 years of indigenous resistance. The plate features a detail of Monkman’s painting for the same series titled The Daddies in which a nude Miss Chief confronts the Fathers of Confederation seated at a long dining table.
About Kent Monkman: Kent Monkman is a Canadian artist of Cree ancestry who works with a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation. He has had solo exhibitions at numerous Canadian museums including the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. He is represented by Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain in Montreal and Toronto, Trepanier Baer Gallery in Calgary and Peters Projects in Santa Fe.
The 2016 award plate was designed by Stephen Andrews
About the plate: The title of the 2016 Award plate ‘Through a glass, darkly’, taken from 1 Corinthians 13:12. It is interpreted to mean that a reflection of a person in a mirror is but a rough copy. Let’s imagine the figure in this plate is but a shadowy reflection of the award winner, themselves. A reflection paled by comparison.
About Stephen Andrews: A multimedia artist, Stephen Andrews has a deep interest in recreating traditionally mechanically made imagery through his own hands, revealing both the message and the medium. Using images from mass media, he reimagines them through materials as varied as latex, crayons, oil and rubber stamps. His varied works give us the space to pause and reflect on the barrage of visual stimulation we encounter every day, from obituaries in the newspaper to video stills of war footage. Andrews’ work is featured in the Art Gallery of Ontario, The National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.
The 2015 award plate was designed by Shary Boyle
About the plate: The plate is a tributary image to the dark and winning pony. Artists invest so much of themselves into their work, the vagaries of success and failure can hit close to the bone. At times awards feel lucky - but usually they are very hard won. The rainbow wreath and extended limbs mark this pony for unconventional glory.
About Shary Boyle: Shary Boyle is well-known for her bold and fantastical explorations of the figure. Fuelled by concerns about class and gender injustice, Boyle approaches her work with an expressive candour and compassion. Employing a high level of handmade craft and detail, her multidisciplinary practice—at once spirited, oneiric and poetic—mines the history of porcelain figures, animist mythologies and arcane techniques to create a symbolic language uniquely her own.
The 2014 plate was designed by Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins
About the plate: The 2014 artwork was created by Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins. It depicts Toronto as a map, a series of neighbourhoods, and electoral wards from the foot of Lake Ontario. It is also a painting, a mosaic, and an abstraction. When combined, these ideas symbolize what it means to view Toronto artistically: as a diverse place of colours, as a place of culture, and as a place we watch over.
About Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins: Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins have practiced sculpture, installation and media art in Toronto since 2000. Jennifer Marman is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario. Daniel Borins is a graduate of McGill University. Both Marman and Borins are also graduates of the Ontario College of Art and Design in 2001 - where they first met and began collaborating together.
The 2013 plate was designed by Louise Noguchi and David Poolman
About the plate: For the 2013 Toronto Arts Foundation Award Plate, Louise Noguchi and David Poolman wanted to create a design that resembled a broken clay pigeon used in skeet shooting - which is often called clock shooting. The activity was created to simulate North American bird hunting and in the 1920s, players used this game to sharpen their aim in the off-season. In skeeting, clay targets (plates) are launched into the air and players try to shoot them down in mid-flight. A winner is determined by how many targets are hit – winners of the 2013 awards are considered hot shot in the Toronto Arts Community.
About Louise Noguchi and David Poolman: Louise Noguchi challenges her audience with themes that pose psychological questions. Using photography, sculpture, video and other media, her concepts confront the spectator's notions of identity, perception and reality. Noguchi's work has been exhibited across Canada and internationally; she is represented by Birch Libralato in Toronto.
The 2012 plate was designed by An Te Liu
About the plate: N/A
About An Te Liu: An Te Liu holds an Honors BA in Art History and Renaissance Studies from the University of Toronto and a Master of Architecture degree from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles. After working in the studio of Frank Gehry Associates and as a project designer in firms in Paris and Los Angeles, he was co-founder and design principal of the multi-disciplinary practices Hedge and Space International, both based in Los Angeles. Since 1999, he has been engaged in sculpture and installation work which explores issues of function, occupation and cultural coding in the domestic and urban realms. His works have been shown in solo and group exhibitions in New York, Vancouver, San Francisco, Frankfurt, Rotterdam, Cologne, Berlin, Seoul and Toronto. Liu has been the recipient of numerous research and creation grants from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council.
The 2011 plate was designed by Katie Bethune-Leamen
About the plate: For 2011 Katie Bethune-Leaman has reinterpreted the Toronto Arts Foundation lunch plate motif and created a work of art that explores the historical narrative of Robert Peary and his search for the Cape York meteorites in Greenland. Katie became so compelled by this and other stories that she set-off for a research residency in fall, 2011.
About Katie Bethune-Leamen: Katie Bethune-Leamen is a Toronto-based artist. She received her BFA from Concordia University, and her MFA from the University of Guelph. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including Cognitive Dissonance (Cottage Gallery, LA) and On N’Enchaine Pas Les Volcans (Toulouse, FR). Solo exhibitions include Older, Sadder, And All In White This Time (Latcham Gallery, Stouffville, ON) and Dazzle Shizzle (MKG127, Toronto). She has participated in residencies at the Banff Centre, with SIM in Reykjavik, IS, and many others.
The 2010 plate was designed by Jon Sasaki
About the plate: N/A
About Jon Sasaki: Sasaki, working in the vein of “romantic conceptualism,” utilizes primarily objects, performance-for-video, installations and interventions in work that mixes humor and pathos, often with gently antagonistic results. Jon was an active member of the Instant Coffee art collective between 2002 and 2007. Jon’s work has been presented in solo exhibitions at Centre Clark (Montreal), Gallery TPW (Toronto), The New Gallery (Calgary), and Latitude 53 (Edmonton). He has participated in recent group exhibitions at VOX (Montreal), the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (University of Toronto), the Owens Art Gallery (Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB) Simon Fraser University Gallery (Burnaby, BC). His work was also presented at the 2006 and 2008 editions of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche.
The 2009 plate was designed by Cecilia Berkovic
About the plate: N/A
About Cecilia Berkovic: Cecilia Berkovic is an award-winning graphic designer and artist based in Toronto.
The 2008 award plate was designed by Julie Voyce
About the plate: A storm was coming in, about 8pm. There was thunder, there were flashes of lightning bouncing off the window pane and there was Julie gleefully pondering the possibility of taking the lightning bolts out of the sky and bending them into pictures like neon lights, except they'd be moving.
That was 1966. This is now: she's done pretty much everything, printmaking, painting, drawing, books, installation and performance. There are a few endeavors left to tackle before she dies, two of which are video and good portraits! Designing the award plate was a blast. Animals came to mind. Julie went thru her beastly reference book and came upon a snake ready to lunge: it was perfect. The undiluted focus, the bracing stillness prior to attack. Light bulbs have served as a jolly note to an idea in comic strips. The energy saver is for the grandchildren.
About Julie Voyce: Julie Voyce graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1980. Work mounted in the GTA: Toxic Plan 9, The Eye Revue, Chroma Living, Garnet Press, Art Metropole, the Art Gallery at York University and LandymoreKeith Contemporary Art. Work has travelled to: The Edmonton Art Gallery, grunt gallery-Vancouver, Struts Gallery-Sackville, Gallerie Trois Points-Montreal, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery-Lethbridge, the Scope Art Fair-L.A, Platform-London; United Kingdom, apexart-New York, Boekie Woekie-Amsterdam and the Novosibirsk State Art Museum-Siberia. The Collections: The Canada Council Art Bank, the Art Gallery of Mississauga, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Metropole archives, The Bank of Montreal, the Banque National du Canada and various private collections.