Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award
The Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award for museum scholarship was established in 1980, in honor of the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art and a scholar of early-twentieth-century painting. This award is presented to the author or authors of an especially distinguished catalogue in the history of art, published in the English language under the auspices of a museum, library, or collection. Catalogues of public or private collections or significant portions thereof and exhibition catalogues are eligible. The 2013 award year covers catalogues published between September 1, 2011, and August 31, 2012.
In 2009, CAA established a second Barr award for the author(s) of catalogues produced by smaller museums, libraries, and collections with an annual operating budget of less than $10 million dollars, or by smaller exhibitions within larger museums.
Jeff L. Rosenheim’s catalogue for the exhibition Photography and the American Civil War (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013) is not only a major contribution to American art history, but also an equally important addition to Civil War studies and to the historiography of the United States in general. While Rosenheim clearly explains the technical aspects of photographic processes and convincingly addresses the formal and aesthetic contributions of photography to art history, he also tells a fascinating story about how photography developed as a viable art form in this country. Matching the breadth and quality of the magisterial exhibition, the catalogue masterfully chronicles the Civil War itself, seen, literally, through the eyes of the photographers and presented in the guise of the people who experienced it directly, including those who did not survive it.
Peter C. Sturman and Susan S. Tai’s exhibition catalogue The Artful Recluse: Painting, Poetry, and Politics in Seventeenth-Century China (Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Barbara Museum of Art; New York: Delmonico/Prestel, 2012) presents a probing study of how the painting, calligraphy, and poetry of the “artist recluse” intersected during the Ming-Qing Cataclysm. Entering the seemingly inaccessible physical and mental worlds of the mountain hermit and mist-covered huts of the recluse, The Artful Recluse dispels the notion that such material is inherently obscure and impenetrable to all but the learned scholar. Sturman, Tai, and other contributing authors step beyond well-worn notions of the timeless qualities of this figure in Chinese art and press deep into the tumultuous social, historic, and political context of the Ming-Qing era, revealing in particular the contradictions of artists who disengage from a world that they recognized was in rapid change while engaging it directly with their art and inviting others of a similar reclusive mindset to respond and engage.
CAA gave the first Barr award to Kurt Weitzmann, Margaret English Frazer, et al. in 1981 for Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century, the catalogue for an exhibition held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1979. Many more award-winning catalogues produced at that museum followed, including four of the last eight.
Publications for exhibitions held at many other institutions nationwide have been recognized by CAA for their excellence, including The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art at the Kimbell Art Museum (1988), “Degenerate Art”: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1993), and Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan Artists and Their New York at the National Museum of American Art (1997).
CAA will begin accepting nominations for the 2015 Alfred H. Barr Jr. Awards later this spring.