VISUAL ARTS AWARDS
2008 Award for Curatorial Excellence in Contemporary Art
The recipient of the 2008 Hnatyshyn Foundation Award for Curatorial Excellence in Contemporary Art is Barbara Fischer, lecturer, writer, and Executive Director / Chief Curator of the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at the University of Toronto. Barbara Fischer has an M.A. in art history from York University. She formerly held curatorial positions at the Open Space Gallery (Victoria, B.C.), the Walter Phillips Gallery (Banff Centre), the Art Gallery of Ontario, The Power Plant (Toronto) and the Blackwood Gallery (University of Toronto at Mississauga). She has taught contemporary art, art history, theory and criticism, and curatorial studies at the Ontario College of Art and Design (Toronto), the University of Western Ontario (London) and the University of Toronto at Mississauga.
Ms. Fischer has curated numerous solo exhibitions of contemporary Canadian artists including John Greyson, Tanya Mars, Stan Douglas and Fastwurms, as well as group exhibitions of Canadian and international conceptual art, photo-based works, video and performance, sculpture, outdoor projects, painting and drawing. Among her many thematic exhibitions are Love Gasoline: Works on Body, Image, Text, 1996, (an exhibition of performance-documentation, video, sculpture and photography from the late 1960s and early 1970s), New Modular, 2002, (which focused on sculptural and photo-based works probing the relation between art, design and architecture by a new generation of Canadian artists), Re-Play (Soundtracks), 2003, (which examined the relation between art and music in the context of the 20th century and current tendencies in visual art), and Projections, 200, (the first major cross-Canada survey of projection-based works in the history of contemporary art in Canada, 1964-2007).
In 2009, Ms. Fischer will curate the official Canadian exhibition by artist Mark Lewis at the Venice Biennale of Visual Art, the most prestigious international venue for the visual arts. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Centre of Contemporary Art and of C Magazine, and is a member of the Advisory Panel of the Canadian Art Foundation. She has received the annual Exhibition Award from the Ontario Association of Art Galleries three times (2000, 2004 and 2008), as well as the OAAG Historical Curatorial Writing Award in 2002.
In recommending Barbara Fischer for the curatorial award the jury praised the deep understanding of artists and their work that underlies her curatorial process. "Whether reexamining works of historical significance or introducing new work by an emerging artist, Barbara unites her deep-rooted connection to the issues that motivate artistic practices with dedicated scholarship. Her ability to apply broad art historical and theoretical knowledge to nascent ideas circulating among artists has enabled her to identify key features of emerging concerns. This same ability has given her writing both lucidity and intellectual authority. Barbara knows her community profoundly, which provides her with advance knowledge of the artistic questions that inspire that community and which, in turn, sustains the courage of her commitments. In her academic engagements Barbara has shown herself to be a generous teacher and mentor, inspiring emulation and deep respect, while demonstrating her commitment to the ongoing development of Canadian art practices at the highest level."