AAANZ Prizes

Our annual prizes recognise the best in arts writing and research across Australia and New Zealand. The awards cover a broad array of arts publishing and acknowledge the contribution of both emerging and established scholars and artists. The categories include prizes for books, catalogues, artist books, Indigenous art writing, and an award for recently completed PhD graduates. The prizes are sponsored by a number of universities, art museums, associations and publishing bodies around Australia and New Zealand.

The prizes recognise the following.

  • Originality and rigour of scholarship.
  • Contribution to knowledge in the area and impact on scholarly debate in the field.
  • Significance of the topic to the field and to adjacent disciplines.
  • Significance and originality of arts research.
  • Quality of the design and production values of the publication.
  • Ability to convey complex ideas to wider audiences.

Please note people who wish to nominate publications for a prize must be a member of AAANZ. Staff affiliated with museums that have a AAANZ institutional membership are also eligible to nominate publications.

The AAANZ prizes are awarded each year at our annual conference. The deadline for nominations is June 30th 2017. Please join our mailing list for further announcements regarding the prizes.

Nominations for the 2017 Book and PhD prizes are now open. The nomination form for book prizes can be found here. The from for PhD Prize nominations can be found here (the deadline for PhD prize nominations is October 2nd 2017).

For all enquiries please contact the Business Manager at the AAANZ.

2016 AAANZ prize winners


Best Book | Mary Roberts, Istanbul Exchanges: Ottomans, Orientalists, and Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2015)

Istanbul Exchanges is an innovative exploration of a complex series of exchanges between Ottoman and European artistic cultures in late nineteenth century Istanbul. Roberts neatly sidesteps a simplistic rendering of an Ottoman/European binary and demonstrates the complexity of nineteenth cross-cultural mobility and networking. Her approach avoids the simplistic regional categorisation and still pervasive ‘Western’ lens through which the visual culture of this context and period still tends to be read. This is a successful challenge to the enduring stereotype of Ottoman artistic production being a late derivative response to French academic conventions, and instead highlights the productive interchange between the two cultures. The five case studies are presented in a nuanced manner and invoke Roberts’ original and rigorous research based on primary archival sources (especially in France, Italy, Poland, and Turkey). The impressive array of visuals, painstakingly gathered together by the author, are featured prominently and carefully integrated in the discussion. The book is beautifully produced, with colour images interspersed throughout the text. Istanbul Exchanges is a major contribution to our understanding of patronage and artistic production in nineteenth-century Istanbul, and also develops a vital narrative for cross-cultural networking and transnational history that has a particular resonance for our contemporary global era.

Highly Commended:
Luke Morgan. The Monster in the Garden: The Grotesque and the Gigantic in Renaissance Landscape Design, (Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015)
From the thrilling opening description of the separation of conjoined twins, Luke Morgan’s book The Monster in the Garden is a lively, highly original account of the conflicting nature of Renaissance garden design. Morgan challenges the reductive notion of the Renaissance garden as an idyllic retreat. As such, the Renaissance garden is rendered more spatially complex and contradictory than traditional formulations. Morgan’s methodological framework, drawn from Foucault and Bakhtin, provides an exciting lens to reconsider the fundamental assumptions informing Renaissance landscape design. This is a timely and welcome contribution that successfully makes accessible a sub-field of Renaissance scholarship to broader audiences.

Judges:           Andrea Bubenik and Chari Larsson


Best Anthology | Not Awarded in 2016


Best Large Exhibition Catalogue Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices eds. James Bennett and Russell Kelty (Adelaide: AGSA and Perth: AGWA, 2015)

The large catalogue prize is where you expect to find evidence of the most extensive research occurring in art galleries, and to tell you what a gallery’s priorities are. Of this year’s 12 entries:

  • Three were on the early modern period 1500-1750, two European and one Asian
  • One from 19th century England
  • Two from the 20th century, one Australian and one North American
  • Four from the contemporary period, two dealt with Australian art, and 
one each with New Zealand and Asian art
  • Two were national histories of an aspect of Australian art
  • Four were on individuals – an Asian, a North American and two 
  • Three were collection based

The contemporary large catalogue genre comprises a short introductory essay or two, plus notes on the images and a list of exhibition contents. Measured by the gloss and cubic centimetre factor each met the criteria of ‘substantial publication’. 10 were from state art galleries and 2 from contemporary art spaces. One of the latter, Unstuck in Time (Auckland: Te Tuhi, 2015), conspicuously challenged the large catalogue genre. An integral part of the exhibition rather just a document of it, it was the only entry to undertake an institutional critique of the catalogue itself. The others tended to reproduce the exact contents of the exhibition (in pretty much the same form as the exhibition). 
Scholarship is on the wane in exhibition catalogues. Overall the aftertaste is of coffee table book. While several did succeed in injecting some scholarship, only a few contained critical essays you might use in teaching. While this is an important criterion for us, we should remember that these catalogues are aimed at the general public as galleries increasingly become entertainment centres. The strength of these catalogues is the quality of image reproduction. Here The Photograph and Australia (AGNSW) was particularly successful in rescuing the object from the image – where for example the backs of carte de visite are shown first and the ‘fronts’ are hidden inside gatefolds. Some other catalogues included installation shots that produced a similar effect. 
The NGV had stacked the odds with nearly half the contenders and clearly there is an impressive production team in place. All of the NGV publications were superb. For us, the best was the Andy Warhol/Ai Weiwei catalogue because its text contained a level of critical quality not reached by the others. It also rearranged the exhibition content to operate inside the publication format in an interesting way. Being jointly produced with the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh no doubt helped.

With the most cubic centimetres — 350 large format pages — is Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices from AGSA and AGWA, edited by the AGSA curators James Bennett and Russell Kelty. It is our winner.

It was surprisingly involving and told a good pirate yarn. It had something for everyone yet developed a very focused theme – early modern globalisation from the East rather than the West. While the cover was not to our taste, inside the narrative created by the images and then extended in the carefully considered essays is immediately engrossing. The images direct readers to the complexity of a story that has flown under the radar of the Western artworld. This was the catalogue that contained the most unexpected stories and met all our criteria for a big catalogue:

  • It is heavy
  • It is meticulous and interesting, generating spaces for critical discussion
  • It reflects the exhibition itself and continues the exhibition into a publication environment
  • It has beautiful reproductions

Judges:           Ian McLean and Susan Ballard


Best Small Exhibition Catalogue | Derek Kreckler: Accidents and Process, ed. Hannah Matthews (Melbourne: Perimeter Books, 2015) 

An exceptionally strong field in the small exhibition catalogue category. Lots of fantastic publications with scope, critical strength and engagement. Small exhibition doesn’t mean small thinking. These exhibitions run a shoestring, often without major corporate partners and heavy subsidies but show no signs of critical disadvantage. The catalogues shortlisted in this category represent some of the very best writing from curators, historians and artists in Australia today and their ambition is staggering and their quality impressive.

The publication that in our opinion represented the very best exhibition catalogue offered up a whole raft of possibilities from a wealth of writers at different stages of their career across several continents. That the catalogue should be dedicated to an exhibition of a living artist is also significant for the necessity of this long overdue retrospective. The publication evidences a strong commitment to redefining the purposes of the catalogue form by working closely with the artist and his interlocutors. It is a richly illustrated publication, a work in its own right. Critically diverse essays frame an exhibition that is rich with possibilities and new thinking on contemporary Australian Art. We award the Small Catalogue Prize to Hannah Mathew for her editing of Derek Kreckler: Accident and Process. The exhibition originated at the University of Woolongong before traveling to the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (and is travelling in 2017 to Contemporary Art Tasmania). With contributions from Helen Ennis, Richard Grayson, Kyla McFarlane, Ian McLean, Hannah Mathews, Sarah Miller, Quentin Sprague and Frazer Ward the catalogue was published by Perimeter Press, Melbourne.

This was an incredibly difficult decision. We would like to add particular high commendations for Ann Stephens’ To women artists who should know better, a fantastic publication that spoke of, too and from a wide variety of writers’ representing intergenerational perspectives on the power and influence of Australian Art.

Judges:             Toby Juliff and Alison Inglis


Best Scholarly Article in the ANZJA | Stephen Turner, ‘The Parasitical Historiography of Ann Shelton’s Photography,’ ANZJA, Vol. 15, No. 1 (2015), pp. 37-51.

We judged the two 2015 editions of the journal, an open issue and a themed issue ‘21st century perspectives on art and feminism’.

As former editors of the journal we were pleased to see that roughly one third of the articles were authored or co-authored by recent postdoctoral graduates and emerging scholars, artists and curators. This speaks to the dedication of the editors in nurturing new talent as well as the talent of the next generation of scholars.

The problem with judging is always with comparing ‘apples and oranges’. Fortunately the articles divided fairly neatly into three categories:

  1. Art history articles on 19th century artists (Roger Benjamin on Tom Roberts, Cathy Speck on Rupert Bunny, Kate Robertson on Australian artists and the shipboard voyage, Campbell Ewing on Manet and music)
  1. Survey articles of an aspect or genre of contemporary art (Milner and Moore on neo-burlesque feminist performance art, Felicity Fenner on place-based, community-based, and participatory art, Louise Mayhew on collectivism and collaboration in women’s art, Yvonne Low on the fledgling women’s/feminist art scene in Indonesia)
  1. Analyses of the work of one artist (Eleanor Knox on Eleanor Knox, Laura Castagnini on Pipilotti Rist, Anne Marsh on Eugenia Raskopoulos, Carruthers and Roberts on Emila Medkova, Stephen Turner on Ann Shelton.

We discussed the relative merits of articles within each category, nominated our front-runners in each group, and then compared them to come up with an overall winner. In the 19th century group we were drawn to the originality of Kate Robertson’s article on the shipboard voyage, a part of the Australian artists’ well-worn pilgrimage to Europe that is usually overlooked. We found much to enlighten and inform in the second category but for us Jacqueline Millner’s and Catriona Moore’s survey of neo-burlesque feminist performance art stood out for the verve and vigour with which it tackled its subject. In the third category, the subjects were three contemporary video artists and two photographers – all women. Of this group we were particularly impressed with Stephen Turner’s substantial analysis of the photographs of New Zealand artist Ann Shelton.

We are pleased to announce that this article ‘The Parasitical Historiography of Ann Shelton’s Photography’ is our overall winner. Historical, philosophical and propositional, we felt that this article makes a persuasive case for understanding Shelton’s art in terms of a mode of critical historiography that the author, borrowing from Michel Serres, calls “parasitical”. Specifically, in the New Zealand context, this entails a ‘post-settler’ shift of vision, acknowledging “the broken history of Maori, accepting that the settler was the agent of that break and also, therefore, that the settler is a guest of Maori.” Turner’s article pays close attention to Shelton’s work, offering a lucid account of her photographic practice. At the same time, and equally importantly, his speculations introduce some potentially valuable concepts for the discipline of art history more broadly.

Judges:             Caroline Jordan and Daniel Palmer


Best Art Writing By an Indigenous Australian | Greg Lehman, ‘Benjamin Duterrau: The Art of Conciliation,’ Journal of War and Culture Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2 (May 2015), pp. 107-24.

An excellent piece of scholarship. Well researched and written. What could be a dry text instead offers interesting insights with ample context for a reader to follow the author’s well laid path to consider Benjamin Dutuerrau’s The Conciliation (1840) in terms of its art history and cross cultural contexts in which it was conceived, and ultimately completed. It is further of significance, and perhaps a provocative turn, that a colonial painting by an English artist is examined with such depth by an Indigenous scholar.

A special mention goes to Hettie Perkins for her essay ‘Circle of Light,’ in Riverland: Yvonne Koolmatrie, exhibition curated by Nici Cumpston, Jonathan Jones and Hetti Perkins, with Yvonne Koolmatrie and Genevieve O’Callaghan. (Adelaide: Art Gallery of SA, 2015) the judges described this essay as an excellent text that could stand alone beyond the exhibition catalogue from which it came. The piece is highly informative about Koolmatrie’s work and life, and offers new insights into her practice, within the broader context of growing up in an apartheid, mid-century Australia. The use of examples, images and narratives for how Koolmatrie came to her work is important and in itself weaves an important timeline that highlights the incredible quantity, quality and impact of this artist on Australian and international plant weaving practices. Honouring Koolmatrie by this text in her own lifetime is to be commended, as is the regular inclusion of quotes by the artist throughout the text.

Judges:             Julie Gough and Michael Fitzgerald


Best Art Writing by a NZ Māori or Pacific Islander | Rangihiroa Panoho, ori Art: History, Architecture, Landscape and Theory (Auckland: David Bateman 2015)


The book is expansive in its presentation and format as well as highly innovative in its conceptual and theoretical range. Rangihiroa Panoho alludes to a broad range of art practices to elicit an exciting and novel history of Maori art, one which spans customary and contemporary artworks alongside photography and architecture. Written in a highly evocative and poetic style, the volume intrinsically addresses equally valued Maori art forms such as oratory and spoken word to expand and broaden our understanding of what constitutes a Maori canon of art. Creating a space for subjective histories to flourish alongside the poetic stature of tribal histories and chants, the author writes these vital aspects into the material structure and format of the book itself. In this way readers are led into the heart of Maori customary practice, enjoying the cyclical nature of histories rather than the purely linear. In an extensive section, the author presents examples of jade disks and pendants, examining archaic and contemporary art forms from China and Taiwan in order to extend the parameters of an accepted Maori art history. In this way he engages readers with an examination of the relationship between Maori and their earliest forbears. This in itself is novel and exciting and marks an important contribution to the field of Maori (and Pacific) art history which can all too often become cloistered within the boundaries of diverse and regional disciplines.

This bold, scholarly volume fuses complex histories and perspectives in a very accessible and enjoyable way. High-quality images and sumptuous production engage the reader’s attention and manage to integrate the subject matter with the materiality of the book itself. Here again, the author breaks new ground by including photographs from collaborative artists Mark Adams and Haruhiko Sameshima which add a further layer to our understanding of what constitutes art and its history. Blurring the boundaries between object and subject – landscape, architecture and oratory, tribal histories and chants – all become equally agile advocates for an impressive new art analysis under the author’s direction. This is an exciting and innovative addition to the discipline of Maori and Pacific art history volumes. The expansive vision of the author deserves to be acknowledged and rewarded. (Maia Nuku)

Judges:             Maia Nuku and Lara Strongman 


Best University Art Museums Catalogue | Peter Hennessey – Making It Real, curated by Samantha Littley (Brisbane: UQ Art Museum, 2015)

In judging the AAANZ best university art museum catalogue, we took into account a number of factors including the overall ambition of the publication; the scope and quality of the commissioned writing; the clarity of the design and its suitability to the project at hand; and the quality of the documentation and its effectiveness in articulating a stand-alone representation of the exhibition.

Linda Marrinon: Figure Sculpture 2005-2015, published by the Monash University Museum of Art, was a clear stand-out from a design perspective, and included good examples of curatorial writing. However, as with a number of the other nominated publications, the catalogue didn’t necessarily extend its format in terms of ambition or design, indeed with minor variation it followed a format set by MUMA for the majority of its publications.

The two catalogues that did reach towards a more ambitious publication – something sorely missing within an Australian context – were UQ’s Peter Hennessey: Making it Real and The Samstag Museum’s Geoff Wilson: Interrogated Landscape.

Between these two publications – each of them very different in terms of subject – we ultimately chose Peter Hennessey: Making it real.

Particular strengths included the documentation of works in situ, the extended interview with Hennessey, and the scope of the project as a whole. In terms of written content, the commissioned essays were accessible, informative, and broad in their reach. Together with the generous documentation, they provide a multi-faceted context within which to situate Hennessey’s work to date. Although the design itself stays within relatively conventional boundaries, it is nonetheless a clear and attractive publication that makes a significant addition to the literature currently available on the artist.

Judges:             Quentin Sprague and Christopher Marshall


Best Artist Book | Christopher LG Hill, Endless Lonely Planet (Melbourne, 2015)

Endless Lonely Planet, a yearly periodical, presents an open and generous structure that follows the logic of Christopher LG Hill’s artistic practice. Each issue in the series aggregates a meandering network of contributors, compiling their contributions in shifting, low-cost production formats (plastic bag, 7inch, tape, DVD, Wiki, envelope) that often privilege the looseleaf. Micro-experiments in design, structure and distribution agitate editorial, publishing and commercial norms, including Christopher LG Hill’s strategy of sliding retail pricing that has, thus far, diminished with each issue. With many contributors repeated across the issues, the Endless Lonely Planet series leverages publication as a mode of temporal exhibitionmaking, one that gestures towards an interconnected, rhizome-navigating global village, conditional on contribution and community as much as consumption.

Judges:             Nicholas Mangan and Fayen d’Evie


Best PhD Prize | Helen Hughes, ‘Mike Nelson’s Hybrid Scripts’ (University of Melbourne, 2015)

The judges report that it was difficult to separate the candidates for the PhD prize this year. All the candidates clearly had produced excellent research in their PhDs. The final decision was tight, but ultimately the judges awarded the prize to the candidate who best communicated the contribution to knowledge made by their PhD in the field of art history. The AAANZ 2016 PhD Graduate Prize of $1000 sponsored by Taylor & Francis goes to Helen Hughes, whose 2015 University of Melbourne Thesis was titled ‘Mike Nelson’s Hybrid Scripts’. Congratulations to Helen for winning this year’s award.

Judges:             Andrew McNamara, Linda Tyler, and Toni Ross.


See previous prize winners 201620152014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

Best Book

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

The AAANZ Best Book Prize is the only art historical book prize awarded annually in Australasia. It is designed to honour significant and original art historical scholarship from all periods of art history, while also acting as a benchmark for excellence in academic publishing.

Best Anthology

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

The AAANZ Best Anthology Prize is awarded annually to the best collected edition of relevant to writing on art, art theory and historical research. These publications are often conference proceedings or editorial initiatives organised around a theme.

Best Large Exhibition Catalogue

($500 supported by The University of Melbourne)

The AAANZ Best Large Exhibition Catalogue Prize honours originality and intellectual rigour, as well as excellence in the quality of the catalogue design, layout and reproduction of high-quality images. This prize is awarded annually and exhibition catalogues  (from monographic surveys to broad thematic publications) issued by major Australian and New Zealand art museums, and those published by art institutions across the South Pacific are eligible.

Best Small Exhibition Catalogue

($500 supported by The University of Western Australia)

The AAANZ Best Small Exhibition Catalogue Prize is awarded annually to catalogue publications that usually feature only one essay and a smaller scale of art institutional catalogue publication. Small exhibition catalogues demonstrating the breadth possible within the category are particularly encouraged.

Best Scholarly Article in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art

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

The Best Scholarly Article in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art Prize is awarded for the best article published in the AAANZ journal in its biannual editions for the preceding year.

Best Art Writing by an Indigenous Australian

($1000 supported by Art Monthly Australia)

With limited publishing opportunities or resources currently available for Indigenous Australian writers, the Best Art Writing by an Indigenous Australian Prize recognises recent achievement, but also provides scope for ongoing personal development. This Prize offers the winning writer two valuable future pathways for publication within the pages of Art Monthly Australia: first, for an edited excerpt of their winning text, whether it a book, article or essay; and second, for a specially commissioned essay text, also to be published in Art Monthly Australia within a year of the prize’s announcement.

Best Art Writing by a New Zealand Māori or Pacific Islander

($500 supported by Christchurch Art Gallery)

This prize will be awarded to the best art writing, whether in the form of a book, article or essay, by a New Zealand Maori or Pacific Islander. The Best Art Writing by a  New Zealand Maori or Pacific Islander Prize is sponsored by the Christchurch Art Gallery in New Zealand.

Best Artist Book

($500 supported by MADA, Monash University)

The AAANZ’s Best Artist Book Prize defines an artist book as a discrete artwork in the form of a book  (generally exhibition catalogues do not qualify as artist books). The prize invites submissions of artist books from the 5 years preceding the annual awarding of the prize, books published between 2010 – 2014 are eligible. Artists may only submit their book once for consideration.

Best University Art Museums Exhibition Catalogue

($1000 supported by the University Art Museums Association)

The AAANZ Best University Art Museums Exhibition Catalogue Prize invites submissions from art museums on campus throughout the Australasian and South Pacific region. The award recognises an exhibition catalogue that demonstrates originality and intellectual rigour, as well as excellence in the quality of the catalogue design, layout and reproduction of high-quality images.

PhD Prize

($1000 supported by Taylor and Francis)

The AAANZ Best PhD Graduate Prize was initiated in 2013 and is awarded annually. Eligible candidates should have been awarded their PhD in the previous three years. Candidates may only enter once.