Robin Laurence, the Georgia Straight's visual-arts critic and writer for three decades, has won the 2021 Max Wyman Award for Critical Writing.
The annual award, jointly administered by the Yosef Wosk Family Foundation (philanthropist Wosk established the honour in 2017) and the Max Wyman Award Committee, carries a $5,000 prize and an emerald and gold pin by Vancouver artist Robert Chaplin.
The award celebrates arts critic and author Max Wyman, who began his journalism career at age 14 in England, moved to Canada in his late 20s, then became books editor and arts critic for Vancouver's two daily newspapers and authored several books during a three-decade career on the West Coast.
For the second year in a row, the prize was announced by the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation, which also grants the VIVA Awards and the Alvin Balkind Curator's Award.
The Max Wyman Award for Critical Writing is granted to an individual who has amassed a noteworthy body of work during a career of critical writing about performing, visual, and literary arts. Architecture, design, theatre, dance, visual arts, music, literature, TV and film, and cultural commentary are eligible areas of criticism.
In an April 21 statement issued by the Shadbolt Foundation, award founder Yosef Wosk had the following to say about Laurence: “Robin Laurence’s insightful writings about the visual arts have stimulated and provoked Canadian audiences for decades. She helps us to see. The pandemic has placed tight restrictions on our live experience of the arts, but if we can’t be physically present, the next-best thing is the virtual experience, augmented by the contextualization and informed commentary of a voice we can trust. Robin Laurence is such a voice.”
The award jury this year included Max Wyman; Scott Watson, the director of UBC's Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery; and Brenda Leadlay, the B.C. Alliance for Arts and Culture's executive director. Their citation read: "Robin Laurence is regarded as the critic of record in the British Columbia visual arts community, a measure of her career-long dedication to the creative activity of the community’s artists and the institutions that sustain them. Her lively and accessible writing is informed by a deep commitment to all facets of the artform, reinforced by an authoritative grasp of art-historical and socio-philosophical context, and a ready willingness to engage with fresh and developing innovations and explorations in the field."
As well as having written hundreds of critical articles for the Georgia Straight, Laurence won the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts medal in 2016 and has been a long-time contributing editor to both Canadian Art and Border Crossings magazines. She has also written essays for dozens of exhibition catalogues and books as well as having authored A Sense of Place: Art at Vancouver International Airport and coauthored celebrated Vancouver artist Gathie Falk's 2018 memoir, Apples, etc.