2011 Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award
Darielle Mason, ed., Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection and the Stella Kramrisch Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection and the Stella Kramrisch Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2009) constitutes a model of how to make a catalogue about specific collections that far outreaches the task of honoring the collectors in question. Offering acute insights into an important region and an understudied medium, the book not only celebrates a lively vernacular textile tradition but also accords, for the first time, a comprehensive, sensitive treatment of this form of women’s domestic, creative, and social expression. In a series of richly grounded, engagingly written essays, Darielle Mason and her collaborators (including Pika Ghosh, who offers an insider perspective, as well as Katherine Hacker, Stella Kramisch, Anne Peranteau, and Niaz Zaman) locate Kantha within wider sociocultural, historical, political, economic, and religious currents while tackling issues sometimes avoided in such studies, such as matters surrounding the quilt-makers’ agency. Contextualizing photographs serve usefully to position the Kantha quilts as vital objects of utility, and the detailed, magnified reproductions rife in the catalogue help to individuate the makers’ handwork. Further, photo illustrations that make vivid, say, the puckers of the quilt fabric enable an understanding of these textiles as tactile, three-dimensional things, not mere images. Though the catalogue’s scholarly apparatus is admirably precise, clear, and thorough, the authors deserve credit also for addressing frankly the difficulties entailed in assimilating traditional art or craft practices to received art-historical frameworks. In sum, this path-breaking project—illuminating for specialists and the broader public alike—brings duly nuanced and serious attention to a marvelous body of women’s creative work long susceptible to marginalization.
Jury: Anna Chave, Graduate Center, City University of New York, chair; Andrea Bayer, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Virginia Fields, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Erica Hirshler, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Anne Woollett, J. Paul Getty Museum.
2011 Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award for Smaller Museums, Libraries, Collections, and Exhibitions
Read about Yasufumi Nakamori’s Katsura: Picturing Modernism in Japanese Architecture; Photographs by Ishimoto Yasuhiro, the winner of the 2011 Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award for Smaller Museums, Libraries, Collections, and Exhibitions.