2015 AAANZ Prizes

Best Book (2014-5)

Andrea Bubenik, Reframing Albrecht Durer: the appropriation of art, 1528-1700, (Farnham, Surrey, United Kingdom: Ashgate, 2013)

($500 supported by Power Institute, Foundation for Art and Visual Culture, The University of Sydney)

Judges: Susan Best and Amelia Barikin

BUBENIK JKT(250X175)pathReframing Albrecht Dürer: The Appropriation of Art, 1528-1700 is the winner of the 2013/14 book prize. It is a remarkable book that focuses on the reception of the work of the Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer, an artist who attained a level of fame and notoriety that we tend to associate with much later periods of art. As Bubenik argues, ‘The compositions and motifs of artists have often been copied. However, with no other artist did this happen to such as an extent as with Dürer.’ In considering the ‘uses and abuses’ of Dürer’s style and iconography over the course of nearly two centuries of artistic production, Bubenik addresses not only the impact of Dürer’s work on his peers and subsequent followers, but also the nature of influence, emulation, artistic lineages, and innovation in this historical period and beyond. Crucially, the author indicates that the important issue of reception in the discussion of Dürer’s work has curiously not generated a monographic study to date.  This book, then, addresses a substantial lacuna in Dürer scholarship. The book draws upon a wealth of skillfully sourced primary research material and is meticulously referenced, making it a substantial and original contribution to our understanding of the Dürer-Renaissance and Dürer’s place in early modern Europe.

The historical contextualisation of strategies of appropriation is a very striking feature of the book. Thinking about Dürer’s reception through the lens of contemporary term like ‘appropriation’ challenges us to think more carefully about cultural histories of ‘copying’, from the Renaissance to the present. In framing visual appropriations of Dürer’s imagery as both acknowledgments and transformations of the past – as opposed to passive imitations or mimetic repetitions – Bubenik opens up an important and surprisingly productive space for dialogue between Renaissance and contemporary art historiography. As she writes, ‘Instead of thinking about whether appropriation art has a future, I have sought to characterize its past’. The study is very instructive about Early Modern values around provenance, authorship, originality and the art market: the detailed discussion on the development of private collections in Prague and Munich, and the influence of the collector-patron on art history, was particularly fascinating. In addition to expanding knowledge on Dürer, the book also serves as a striking portrait of the development of the ‘artist’s persona’, prompting new considerations of the ways in which artists and patrons have strategically contributed to the management of artistic identity, both in and out of art history.  The volume is well illustrated, with colour and black and white plates.

Best Anthology

This year the judges awarded the prize to two publications.

Ian McLean, Double Desire: Transculturation and Indigenous Art (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 2014)

Christina Barton and Robert Leonard, The Critic’s Part: Wyston Curnow Art Writings 1971-2013  (Brisbane: IMA and Wellington: Victoria University, 2014)

($500 supported by Power Institute, Foundation for Art and Visual Culture, The University of Sydney)

Judges: Helen Ennis and Olivier Krischer

Double desire coverDouble Desire: Transculturation and Indigenous Art builds significantly on Ian McLean’s well-known work in this area and is a rigorous academic undertaking. It is the outcome of a session held at the College Art Association conference in New York in 2013 that considered issues of Indigenous contemporary art; a number of the essays grew out of papers given there. It was also informed by McLean’s ongoing conversations with an international group of scholars who have met regularly to discuss modernisms in Indigenous and African art.

The fourteen essays introduce different topics, different voices and different styles of writing.  McLean himself contributes two detailed, clear essays that help to theoretically frame the subject of indigenous contemporary arts. A wide geographic range is covered through the inclusion of essays dealing with art in Africa, Canada, Mexico and the United States. Such comparative discussion is rich. Significantly also many of the essays provide an important historical dimension to the discussion.

The project as a whole – the convening of the CAA panel, the careful editing of papers and addition of solid introductory essays – brings Australian/New Zealand arts and art history into a timely conversation of international relevance, without needing to speak the language of an ‘other’ art world per se. The book is aimed fairly and squarely at an academic audience interested in postcolonial theories, globalism and relational art practices and is well-placed to become a key text in university courses. It is a well-produced publication with a handsome hardcover, and a mix of black and white and colour illustrations.

TheCriticsPart_front_coverThe Critic’s Part: Wystan Curnow Art Writings 1971-2013 is a very unusual anthology in the Australian and New Zealand contexts. How often have art historians devoted themselves to anthologising the work of a single art critic? This book is admirably clear about its aims: to provide a guide to the evolution of Curnow’s thinking as well as a big picture account of New Zealand art across four decades. It also prompts broader questions about the role of an art critic (as alluded to it in the title) as a public intellectual. The writing is drawn from sources that are not readily accessible, catalogues and short-lived art journals and is arranged sensibly, chronologically.

Barton and Leonard each contribute short insightful contextualising essays, Leonard’s giving an overview of Curnow’s biography and the issues underpinning his practice, while Barton focuses on his method, his style of writing in particular.

The selection of writings successfully traces Curnow’s development—his travels, his ideas of ‘high culture’ and his experience of the global and local aspects of the art he encountered—while also appearing to outline broader, more objective developments in the NZ art world, and in contemporary art more generally. It successfully foregrounds issues of broader relevance, such as the postcolonial vantage point from which to mount a critique of Eurocentric modernism [p.267] in the 1990s, and other aspects that Curnow was uniquely placed to comment on. Curnow emerges as a lively force who has devoted his life to the understanding of art. His anthologisers have been determined to honour his contribution and have done so extremely well without resorting to hagiography.

The book is beautifully produced; it feels and looks good, and this careful attention to detail is reflected in the approach of the editors throughout. Editing is a somewhat thankless, arduous task but in their light-handed, rigorous and respectful way Barton and Leonard have succeeded in providing access to a body of work that will change the way you think about New Zealand art and the art world in a crucial 40 year period.

Best Large Exhibition Catalogue

Pop to Popism coverPop to Popism, edited by Wayne Tunnicliffe and Anneke Jaspers (Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2014) (Runner Up – Mid-Century Modern (Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2014) edited by Kirsty Grant)

($500 supported by The University of Melbourne)

Judges: Luke Morgan and Sascha Grishin

Pop to Popism is a major review of an important phenomenon in international art of the twnetieth century, one which introduces new scholarship, especially in the extension of Pop Art to Australian art as well as continental European art.  The catalogue constitutes an attempt to create a history of Pop Art in Australia, a history which is bound to be disputed.  The Annandale Imitation Realists (Colin Lanceley, Mike Brown and Ross Crothall) are seen as the chaotic harbingers, Dick Watkins and Tony Tuckson as early contributors and the Canberra-based artists Vivienne Binns and Robert Boynes as important participants.  With Ken Reinhard, Martin Sharp, Garry Shead and Gareth Sansom it became a crowded house, while in Sydney, a Yellow House.  The essays, especially by Wayne Tunnicliffe, Michael Desmond and Ann Stephen, sparkle with fresh scholarship. The catalogue design by Analiese Cains is not only clear and attractive, but echoes the aesthetics of Pop Art itself.

The catalogue, like the exhibition itself, is a landmark event – it is loud, bombastic,  funny, and an absolute feast for the senses.  Some people will love it and others will hate it, but anyone one interested in 20th century visual culture must read it.

The judges also made special mention to the runner-up Mid-Century Modern (National Gallery of Victoria) edited by Kirsty Grant.

Curious, challenging and certainly breaking new ground.  Decorative arts have frequently been poor cousins in the state art galleries and Australian furniture studies have suffered from considerable neglect.  The focus of this survey is Australian furniture design 1945-75 and much of this catalogue consists of documentation of the making, consuming and collecting of Australian furniture over this period.  There is considerable use of primary sources that have never before appeared in print.  The apparatus, which consists of a very useful timeline, bio-data on the designers and a good working bibliography, is a very useful tool.  Kirsty Grant and her team write in a manner that is accessible and popular, yet at the same time scholarly.  The catalogue design by Thomas Deverall is brilliant – attractive, reflects the aesthetics of mid-century modernism, but admirably understated. .

Best Small Exhibition Catalogue

madonna staunton coverMadonna Staunton: Out of a Clear Blue Sky, catalogue essay by Peter McKay (Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 2014).

($100 supported by The University of Western Australia)

Judges: Luke Morgan and Sascha Grishin

Madonna Staunton (born 1938) has been a key player in the Brisbane art scene and is an artist of national standing, but like a number of her Queensland peers, she is insufficiently known beyond the borders of her adopted state.  The last survey of her art was in 1994, but it had little impact south of the border.  This catalogue has an excellent monographic essay and a good, representative cross-section of illustrations.  Sally Nall’s design is simple unadorned and effective.

Best Scholarly Article in the Australia New Zealand Journal of Art

AAANZ Journal Vol 14Daniel Palmer, ‘Photography as Social Encounter: Three Works by Mickey Allan, Sophie Calle, and Simryn Gill’, (ANZJA, vol.14, issue 2, 2014)

($500 supported by Power Institute, Foundation for Art and Visual Culture, The University of Sydney)

Judges: David McNeill and Luke Smythe

While many of the essays were engaging and informative Palmer’s seemed to us to  best exemplify the requirements of the form. It’s hypothesis was original, clearly stated, and persuasively presented. It worked as a self-contained text while at the same time suggesting many fruitful pathways for further development of it’s argument. It evocatively charted the limits of self-portraiture as it is traditionally defined and presented a strong case for a more complex and expansive understanding of this genre (and for our understanding of artistic subjectivity in general).

We would also like to congratulate, in particular, Meredith Morse, Edward Hanfling, Chris McAuliffe and Anthony White for making the task of selecting a winner more difficult than it would otherwise have been!

Best Art Writing by an Indigenous Australian

Lola Greeno coverJulie Gough,‘Honouring the past / making a future – The Tasmanian Aboriginal shell necklace tradition’ and ‘Lola Greeno: Cultural Caretaker’ in Lola Greeno: Cultural Jewels, (Sydney: Object Gallery, NSW, 2014) pp.108-116, 159.

($1000 supported by Art Monthly Australia)

Judges: Stephen Gilchrist (w/ Michael Fitzgerald from Art Monthly)

While there were many strong entries that created expansionary movement in the boundaries of art writing in an academic context, Honouring the Past/Making A Future by Julie Gough illuminated the practice of artist and cultural warrior, Lola Greeno with the rigour and sensitivity that distinguishes the best art historical inquiry. This is a meticulously researched essay that condenses the wealth of cultural, historical and material information that is embedded within the practice of shell-making. Using historical archive, the voice of the artist and current legal recognitions, Gough uses the shell necklace tradition to explore the residual poetry and pain of Tasmanian history and to mine what has been, what is now and what’s to come. Gough invites the reader into the rich ‘culturalscapes’ that underscore Greeno’s practice. Gough takes us into biography of these shell object from their collection in rockpools and on sandy beaches to their cleaning, sorting and threading through to their import as objects of exchange and cultural identification. This material and procedural study provides new scholarly research but more importantly it partakes in the gifting of cultural knowledge from one generation to the next which sustains both the artist and the author.

Best Writing by an NZ Maori or Pacific Islander Prize

($500 supported by Christchurch Art Gallery)

This prize was not awarded this year due to a lack of nominations.

Best University Art Museum Catalogue Prize

mellor-coverMaudie Palmer AO, Samantha Littley, Danie Mellor, Danie Mellor: Exotic Lies and Sacred Ties (Brisbane: UQ, 2014)

($1000 supported by the University Art Museums Association)

Judges: Helen McDonald and Charles Green

Helen: This impressive catalogue demonstrates originality and a degree of scholarly rigour that is appropriate to the topic. Samantha Littley’s essay, ‘All that glitters…,’ which was written in close consultation with the artist and augmented by some secondary research, combines lively, lucid prose with insight and exacting attention to relevant detail in the artist’s oeuvre, including materials and iconography. Fiona Nicoll’s (academic/theoretical) and Lisa Slade’s (formalist art historical) essays and the interview between Hetti Perkins and Mellor offer illuminating and clearly differentiated perspectives on the implications of the artist’s mixed Indigenous Anglo Celtic heritage. Each refers to the artist’s views and relevant secondary theoretical sources and is well documented. Curator Maudie Palmer’s generous introduction reflects her initiating influence on the project’s development and her enthusiasm for the artist’s work, conveying her belief in his significance as an Australian artist of substantial talent. In light of the above, this catalogue of the mid-career artist’s first survey show makes a valuable contribution to knowledge in the field of contemporary art.

Production values of this publication are high, lending dignity, elegance and legibility to the contents and, especially, ‘enhance(ing) the impact of the findings.’ The paper, the cloth-bound hardcover and the dustcover are of fine quality. Brent Wilson and Gordon Craig’s design is appropriate and sometimes inspired. For instance the deep purple of some pages boosts the opulence of the imaged gold frames and blue and white Spode china patterned depictions of landscape within, against which the ‘naturally’ vibrant colours of the Australiana figures contrast (a feature which is wittily fore-grounded by the gilt-edging and lettering on the dust-cover). The complex visual opulence that is exposed by this technique of juxtaposition underscores the critical tensions between multiple and competing narratives in Mellor’s oeuvre.  The layout is excellent. High quality photographic images of individual works, including archival photographs and sculptures, are classically positioned on the page and in relation to one another and the pages of text, which are kept separate, complementing the traditional values inherent in the artist’s technical skill in a wide range of conventional media. The text, captions and headings are (mercifully) legible and well laid out, as are the title page and table of contents at the front of the book and the artist ‘s curriculum vitae, the list of contributors, the exhibition check list and the publication details at the back.

Finally, the clear thematic structure and exposition of the essays and interview, including lucidity of prose, coupled with the high quality of visual design and production values of this travelling exhibition catalogue, should greatly appeal to and inform a broad art-viewing readership.

Charles: This impressive catalogue clearly stood out from the other entries for three reasons. First, it stands out for lucid, elegant writing that demonstrates the application of scholarship, research and rigour to contemporary art and, in particular, to the oeuvre of a just-mid-career artist whose art has only recently recently but definitively and deservedly gained great attention. Samantha Littley’s essay, in particular, must be commended, but so do all the other essays that together, demonstrate a closely curated discursive whole. Second, it stands out for the extraordinary beauty of the publication itself, manifest in extraordinary reproduction quality, the sensitivity and immersive elegance of the integration of the artist’s images with book design, and the absolute and inspired design solutions, all contained in a large and substantial volume that represents a considerable commitment from a university art museum. Third, the volume stands out not just for its excellence as an art museum exhibition publication that, as I state above, makes a scholarly contribution to knowledge and also achieves innovation in design and excellence in production, but finally it also incorporates major contributions by the artist himself, so that the book has the status as well as a true ‘artists book,’ and thus is a contribution to art as well. It is a pleasure to offer this recommendation.

Best Artist Book

mangan coverNicholas Mangan, Some Kinds of Duration (Melbourne: 3-Ply Press, 2012)

($500 supported by Massey University)

Judges: Hany Armanious and John Di Stefano

Some Kind of Duration is an elegant artist book project which extends Mangan’s gallery-based work of the same title in an evocative manner. Published by 3-Ply Press (Melbourne), this artist book extends the artist’s interest in the now demolished Walter Burley Griffin Pyrmont incinerator in Sydney and explores the way in which forms are replicated through history. Mangan employs the artist book as an inherent and current artistic form to explore an image of a strange building in a state of severe decay that the artist found while trawling through the archives of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

The notion of historical and archival decay are beautifully evoked by the dull blacks and ‘poor’ photocopy toner qualities embedded in the material aspect of the book. It beautifully blurs the subtle lines between the authentic, the original, the copy and the reproduction as a means of reflecting upon the relentless forces of urban renewal that tend to erase history in its wake. Like photocopying, the clarity of the image is eroded through reproduction, and the bookwork renders the image itself as if entering in a cycle of decay. As Mangan states, “the photocopied image of the incinerator…spoke about lament and an attempt to capture the passing moment” a quality that is captured in the bookwork which mimics the Canon photocopy machine operators manual found at the demolition site of the incinerator.


The PhD prize was awarded to Chari Larrson for her PhD thesis Didi-Huberman’s Ghosts.

($1000 supported by Taylor and Francis)

Larsson’s thesis is a critical examination of the work of French philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman. Her thesis presentation was judged to be the best among the entrants because she communicated her topic and its significance very clearly and in a manner accessible to a non-specialist audience, and her oration was extremely engaging and made the audience want to find out more.

Judges: Anthony White, Cathy Speck, Andrew McNamara