2012 Prizes

AAANZ Power Institute Prize for Best Book

Susan Best, Visualizing Feeling: Affect and the Feminine Avant-Garde, London: I.B.Tauris, 2011

A wide range of high quality works was submitted this year, some with superb production values. They were indeed disparate works, creating something of a challenge for the judges, as they ranged from catalogue raisonné type approaches to carefully presented institutional histories and works that introduced complex interlinked visual and social ideas to the general public. They also had a wide range, covering Soviet, New Zealand, Australian, British and also comparative perspectives.


Elias, Ann, Camouflage Australia: Art, Natures, Science, and War, Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2011 – A very well written book which serves well the intersections between art practice, scientific understanding and the social history of artists at war.

Feeney, Warren, The Radical, the Reactionary and the Canterbury Society of Arts 1880-1996, Canterbury: Canterbury University Press, 2011 – A thorough, archive-based contribution to the study of a regional art society and its context with many implications for comparison with other such art-worlds elsewhere. The book draws its strength from a refusal to historically over-generalise.

Hurlston, David, et al, Ron Mueck, Melbourne: NGV Foundation &New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011 – A detailed, usefully arranged, and multi-opinionated catalogue raisonné which accompanied an exhibition of the artist’s work. It provides material for future art historical treatment of the artist.

Krell, Alan, Burning Issues: Fire in art and the social imagination, London: Reaktion Books, 2011 – A well understood, appealing and also eclectic and richly researched book, intended for a more general public in this excellent thematic series.

Murray, Philip, The NGV Story, Melbourne: NGV Foundation 2011 – A useful and well-narrated set of materials arranged for understanding the function of museum collections in Melbourne in the formation of an Australian art. Certain works are specified as historically exemplifying what were thought, at different times, to be period styles.

Wolf Erika, Koretsky: The Soviet Photo Poster: 1930-1984, New York: The New Press, 2012 – An excellent, clear analysis and commentary on the work of a major Soviet poster artist, beautifully illustrated with cogent examination of each plate. A good example of the global reach of AAANZ member research.

From the works selected a short list of 3 emerged.

The judges wish to commend two equal runners-up:

Stephen Jones, Synthetics: Aspects of art and technology in Australia 1956-1975, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 2011

This clearly written and thoroughly researched monograph is the first overview of the uses made of the technologies developed in wartime as they were applied to art in Australia. These included the impact of radar and subsequently computers and their utilisation for data visualisation and later computer art, figure animation, the design of objects (later called CAD) and tonal images. This interesting subject, hitherto largely ignored in art history, amounts to an empirical history of its field, not just for Australia. It is based on based on careful archival research. The author is sensitive to art debates surrounding the birth of computer-dependent art. Sometimes technical description of processes or mechanisms needs further explication for a general, educated reader, but the history of early computing is outlined with clarity. There is a careful examination of networks of exchange and as with another work submitted this year, considerable attention paid to Mike Parr and Peter Kennedy at Inhibodress. The work contains fascinating material regarding what is called a struggle between Professor Bernard Smith and Donald Brook over the nature of the curriculum at Power and also the situation of the act of making – resulting, we are told, in the space that was the Tin Sheds. There is much here to study to understand contemporary struggles, too, and useful warnings against anti-intellectualism in the arts. The work is an important piece of recovery and indeed, ‘synthesis’. Overall, this is undoubtedly a very important contribution to Art History.

Richard Haese, Permanent Revolution, Mike Brown and the Australian Avant-Garde 1952-1997, Melbourne: The Miegunyah Press, 2011

Written by a major thinker who has changed the way we think about Australian art, Permanent Revolution explores the groundwork laid for an Australian post-modernism between 1960 and 1975. The case is Mike Brown and Imitation Realism. The book exceeds a monographic approach to an artist’s life by creating a series of scapes – social, political, aesthetic and historical, that together reanimate the bohemianism of Sydney and Melbourne in the 1960s. It successfully brings together the ‘cultural layerings’ and ‘dynamic harbour-based topography’ that Haese argues characterise the imbrication of art, life and place in Sydney. It clarifies many aspects of the recent history of Australian art in ways that are not completely understood. This handsomely produced monograph continues the fine tradition established at Miegunyah Press of publishing high quality books that propel the history of visual culture in this nation. Attention has also been successfully given to getting good reproductions of works whose importance would not otherwise have been clear from poorer black and white images.

The Winner is:
Susan Best, Visualizing Feeling: Affect and the Feminine Avant-Garde, London: I.B.Tauris, 2011

This is a theoretically enriching and empirically well-informed subject of the imbrication of aesthetics and conceptualist art practice: it uncovers the affect that the anti-aesthetic paradoxically encourages in reaction. The book rewards re-reading and stimulates further and deeper understanding of the works of the chosen female conceptualist artists. Unlike many contemporary books, the project is perfectly balanced, neither too long nor too brief. The judges commend the careful prose in which there is not an extraneous line. The work is also impressive for the way in which it marshals a very wide range of sources from art history and aesthetics as well as including a judicious use of criticism and very careful looking at works of art – in this sense it is exemplary for an Art History prize. Furthermore, it carries the interesting sense of an ongoing project –the preface opens with the introduction of the personal in its description of a feminist reading group, subtly stated – the book is then closely argued without pedantry, and the personal reappears in the final line, amounting to a very clever strategy of writing as well as argument. The book represents research in several continents and languages, and several decades of conduct as a thoughtful art historian.

Judges: Professor John Clark, University of Sydney; Professor Peter McNeil, UTS and Stockholm University

AAANZ Best Edited Book or Anthology

Ian McLean, How Aborigines Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art, Sydney: Institute of Modern Art & Power Publications, 2011


how_aboriginesIt was of course most difficult to judge the Prize for Best Anthology. Beyond any statement about the high quality of all submissions,  let us all be grateful that art books of this calibre continue to come out of Australasia and that scholars – usually the editors of these volumes – are generous enough to include others in their obsessions.

In order to reflect our gratitude, we want to spread the love as widely as possible and draw your attention not only to our winner but also to two other highly recommended anthologies: They are

Fiona Pardington The Pressure of Sunlight Falling, edited by Kriselle Baker & Elizabeth Rankin, Uni of Otago Press, Dunedin – an exquisite publication based in elegant design, sumptuous illustrations, luxurious paper and meditatively written scholarly essays. It is extraordinary to think that this exemplary publication comes from the very edge of our AAANZ kingdom.

The Poetics & Politics of Place: Ottoman Istanbul & British Orientalism, published by Pera Museum & University of Washington – an important work of post-colonial scholarship. It is edited by Reina Lewis, Zeynep Inakur & Mary Roberts.  Mary, as many will know, has along with Roger Benjamin, been weaving one of the threads of the new world art history: European and oriental interactions at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.

Both these books are highly recommended – buy them, read them and think about them.

But our winner for the Best Anthology Prize for 2012 – how could you go beyond it? – is Ian McLean’s How Aborigines Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art, published by the Institute of Modern Art & Power Publications.

This is a book that captures a revolution: a revolution both in art by indigenous artists and a revolution in thinking by both black and white critics and commentators. The book  continues McLean’s argument from his earlier White Aborigines which might be put in a nutshell: Australian art is an aboriginal thing. This remarkable & innovative book will become essential to all future discussions of not only Australian and aboriginal art but perhaps even world art.

Judges: Rose Hawker and Rex Butler

AAANZ Melbourne University Prize for Best Large Catalogue

The Mad Square — Modernity in German Art 1910-37, Jacqueline Strecker (ed), Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales

There was a very strong field for this year’s prize with some very lavishly illustrated and strikingly designed catalogues from the National Gallery of Victoria and Queensland Art Gallery amongst others.

From this strong field we decided to highly recommend two catalogues:
Highly Commended:

Eugene von Guerard — Nature Revealed by Ruth Pullin et al, National Gallery of Victoria;

Origins of Western Desert Art — Tjukurrtjanu by Judith Ryan, Philip Batty et al, National Gallery of Victoria.

The winner is: The Mad Square — Modernity in German Art 1910-37, ed. Jacqueline Strecker, Art Gallery of NSW. The winning catalogue, Mad Square, is scholarly, yet reader friendly, in fact we found there was a distinct spring in the prose that made the individual essays very engaging. The essays by a range of local and international writers address a broad range of modernist practices in Germany,  and thereby give a rich and cogent account of a very complex historical period. The balance of scholarship and accessibility was also complemented by a catalogue design that was simple and elegant.

Judges: Terence Maloon and Sue Best

AAANZ University of Western Australia Prize for Best Small Catalogue

From a field 16 entrants, the have commented:

In an unusually strong group of small exhibition catalogues, the entries submitted by the National Gallery of Victoria stood out. Where some catalogues continue to reproduce paintings across the gutter, thus destroying the visual integrity of the art work, the NGV catalogues are elegantly designed, written with a careful balance of accessibility and scholarly substance, and are sumptuously illustrated. They are a pleasure to look at and to read, and beautifully complement their respective exhibitions.

Rather than pick one out for special distinction, we have decided to divide the prize for best small exhibition catalogue between a group of small bookletsLiving WaterRanjani ShettarLooking at Looking, and Deep Waterthat function almost as four fascicles of a single collective volume devoted to recent NGV exhibitions; and a stylish, slightly larger catalogue—ManStyle / Men + Fashion—written and curated by Paola Di Trocchio, Laura Jocic, Roger Leong, Katie Somerville and Danielle Whitfield, that admirably locates contemporary men’s fashion design within a tradition represented by paintings from the NGV’s own collections.

We congratulate the NGV on the superb quality of its small exhibition catalogues. They have set a standard to which all other museums and galleries can now aspire.

Judges: Geoff Batchen & Roger Blackley

AAANZ Best Scholarly Article in AAANZ Journal

Edward Colless, ‘Pop life and living death’, AAANZ Journal of Art

We would like to begin by commending the intelligent liveliness and lateral vision of the 2011 edition overall and congratulate both authors and editors. The issue engages with a multiplicity of entree points to the interpretation of visual culture and we hope encourages further debate of this topic. The volume also is a vitally needed public demonstration of the importance of both our organisation and our discipline as art history per se continues to be under threat from an economic rationalist vision of public culture and education. Among a number of strong candidates, we have decided to award this year’s prize for best essay in the AAANZ Journal of Art to Edward Colless for his contribution ‘Pop Life and Living Death.’ Ted Colless has spent his career turning art historical commentary into literature, no easy task. This example of his work was beautifully written, both mirroring and creating his subject, with, as one judge has written, “a surface polish of rococo or Whistlerian finesse.” In particular, he elides effortlessly between present and past, demonstrating both traditional art history scholarship and a wide-ranging encyclopedic knowledge of the present. The essay demonstrates the ongoing relevance of art history to the making and reading of present day cultures and reveals the implicit art historical triggers and tropes that abound in current popular culture – but frequently elude the general fan. We would also like to give an honourable mention to the essay on cultural populism by Catherine Liu, a meticulous and informative charting of the para-Maoist strategies of the neo-cons in the US, demonstrating that excellent empiricism will always command a place in our field.

Judges: Geoffrey Batchen and Juliette Peers