Kenneth Robert Lum is a contemporary artist born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1956. Ken is known for his politically engaged, conceptual and representational work in a number of media, including large-scale public art and architectural projects, painting, sculpture, and photography.
Ken has a long and active art exhibition record of over 30 years, including major exhibitions such as Documenta 11, the Venice Biennale, the Sao Paulo Bienal, the Shanghai Biennale and the Whitney Biennial, to name but a few. Since the mid-1990s, he has worked on numerous permanent public art commissions around the globe, including in Vienna, Rotterdam, Toronto and Vancouver. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Hnatynshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award and is a Penn Institute of Urban Research Fellow. In 2017, Ken was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada and, in 2018, he was granted a Pew Fellowship from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. Most recently, Ken won the Gershon Iskowitz Prize for his outstanding contribution to Canadian visual arts. A long-time professor, he is currently the Chair of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design in Philadelphia, where he currently resides.
“Ken works across a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, photography and public art, and is known for his poignant depiction of contemporary society.
He is a living national treasure, whose prolific body of work over the last three decades continues to truly reshape the imagination of people in Canada as an uncomfortable nation, fractured by historical trauma and made up of diverse peoples.
Ken’s work manages to depict great tensions in the collective identity of people and cultures who face the difficulties of authenticity and social belonging. He does this with humility, using images that are often colourful, yet plainly rendered, that disarm us and challenge us to reconfigure our closed perceptions towards shared humanity. In addition to the contribution of his work, Ken’s role within the cultural sector gives mobility and certainty to new generations of artists and cultural workers, especially those whom have been disadvantaged in access to the cultural sector.
I bring Ken forward [for this prize] because of his distinguished contribution to art, to artwork in the public realm, to art writing and curating, and to post-secondary education in Canada and abroad.”
Nominator: Brian McBay, Co-Founder and Executive Director 221A
“He is a living national treasure, whose prolific body of work over the last three decades continues to truly reshape the imagination of people in Canada as an uncomfortable nation, fractured by historical trauma and made up of diverse peoples.”