2014 AAANZ Prizes

Best Book (not awarded)

Judges’ statement

Supported by the Power Institute in Sydney, the AAANZ 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. Due to the unusually low number of books submitted this year, the judges recommend that the 2014 Best Book Prize be held over to 2015. The judges would also like to take this opportunity to encourage all AAANZ members to nominate books for this award next year.

Judges: Susan Best and Amelia Barikin

Best Anthology

The best anthology is supported by the University of Sydney. The prize was award to two publications.


Asia Through Art and Anthropology: Cultural Translation across Borders, eds. Fuyubi Nakamura, Morgan Perkins, Olivier Krischer (Bloomsbury)

The volume derives from a conference entitled In the Image of Asia: Moving Across and Between Locations, held at the ANU April 2010. The conference made extensive use of philanthropic and academic support.

As Howard Morphy writes in the foreword:

‘In moving art across borders we become involved in a dual process of translation – exegesis so it can be understood by people with different cultural backgrounds’ ( xv). The volume, as he states, will make the reader aware that there is a ‘long and relatively independent trajectory of Asian art practices’ (xvi).

The work is therefore a major contribution to understanding creative translation, mistranslation and syncretic cultural forms. The book is imaginative and adventurous in its inclusion of ‘art, film, fashion, literature and performance’ (2) and includes a section ‘artists’ voices’, in an interesting counterpoint that differs from many similar such global studies that focus on the work only of academics.

Many of the essays work within a playful theoretical contrast between the endogenous and the exogenous, which is a feature of John Clarke’s opening essay.

The inclusion of 32 colour plates is very welcome.

Reflecting the continuing influence of Emeritus Professor John Clarke on this field in the region, several of the papers are generated by his own PhD students.

Domestic Interiors: Representing Home from the Victorians to the Moderns, ed. by Georgina Downey (Berg Publishers, Oxford)


Domestic Interiors, representing homes from the Victorians to the moderns, ed. Georgina Downey, Bloomsbury, 2014, also springs in part from a conference session at AAANZ, indicating how important is the conference for generating innovative new work. The history of the home has suffered from its connection with high style association of the elites, and since the 1980s, the interest in the everyday domestic interior seems to have been losing traction; consider for example, the removal of the vernacular domestic house settings at the Powerhouse Museum, for better or for worse.

Downey’s emphasis is on the representation of the interior; there is a marked increase in the last year or two on the relationship of mass media and domesticity. The creation of a glamorous set of interiors might be construed by many, as is the case with view of fashion, as facile. Nonetheless, we now have a sophisticated set of ways of reading the modern interior, parts of which derive from literary theory, that can now also be applied to a more traditional and hybrid spaces such as are considered here. Most striking are considerations of the adoption of a modern design idiom on the verandas of colonial and inter-war Singapore, and the erotic spaces of bath and bedroom, subject of so many canonical paintings by prominent modernist artists. Mark Taylor’s essay on the scene of the crime – cellars and attics – is witty but also compelling in its blending of journalist and literary accounts. Framed like entering a house, the chapters of the book can be read in any order and referred to for numerous issues such as interiority, image making and modernity.

Both judges were struck by certain similarities between the two volumes –

voices from around the globe, similar number of essays and size/tone, thoughtful positioning introductions, as well as the same publisher and format.

Printing and typographic design of both books is easy to read but rather banal; they issue from the same press and are likely to be designed to also be viewed as tablets.

They indicate how difficult it is for art historians to maintain a symbiotic aesthetic dimension to their publications in the age of mass publishing and cheap online print on demand today.

We both liked the added voices of artists in the Asian book and its interrogation of words and images, both of which sit nicely with the direction of the AAANZ.

However the work on the interior book also has important intellectual virtues and works within a terrain that has struggled to find its voice beyond histories of style and social history.

We therefore wish both works to be awarded the prize jointly and congratulate all of the editors.

Judges: Ian McLean and Peter McNeil

Best Large Exhibition Catalogue

The best large exhibition catalogue is supported by the University of Melbourne.

Ten catalogues were submitted for this year’s best large exhibition catalogue award ranging from monographic surveys to broad thematic publications. The judges encourage more leading art museums to submit catalogues in the future as this was a rather narrow and eclectic selection of publications rather than representative of art museum publishing in Australia and New Zealand. There was a notable absence of catalogues from the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The AAANZ awards honour originality and intellectual rigour as well as excellence in the quality of the catalogue design, layout and reproduction of high-quality images. While a number of the catalogues made significant new contributions to the field through sustained art historical research combined with a high standard of visual analysis and original picture research it is the view of the judges that the stand out publication for this category is My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black Australia (Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art). Eloquent, even exemplary essays by Bruce McLean, Hetti Perkins, Brenda Croft and Glenn Iseger-Pilington offer stimulating responses to an exceptionally well-curated selection of work reflecting the richness and diversity of contemporary Indigenous art practice. These often polemical texts confront important and current political issues related to the use of the term ‘Black Australia’. Above all, however, the essays and artist interviews provide a rich and highly satisfying engagement with the core theme of the exhibition and main title of the publication ‘My Country’.


We also wish to highly commend Australian Impressionists in France by Elena Taylor (National Gallery of Victoria). Building upon a large body of existing scholarship, this is the first catalogue to comprehensively document Australian art in Paris during the Impressionist era and introduces fresh perspectives and newly discovered primary sources into an important area of Australian art research. The catalogue is beautifully produced and includes long and scholarly interventions together with insightful essays on individual artists.

Finally, we acknowledge the major contribution made to art museum publishing by Heide, Museum of Modern Art. Heide submitted three highly individual and exceptionally well written and designed catalogues on Fiona Hall, Stephen Benwell and Future Primitive – all of a consistently high-standard.

Judges: Professor Mark Ledbury and Dr Jacqui Strecker

Best Small Exhibition Catalogue

The best small exhibition catalogue is supported by the University of Western Australia.

From a very diverse field of eleven, demonstrating the breadth possible within the category, the judges got down to a short list of 4, all of which deserve to be recognised. These are:

Alisa Bunbury for Bea Maddock: A straightforward and insightful survey for those who might like a more compact engagement with the work of this significant artist;

Su Ballard, Caleb Kelly, Aaron Kreisler for Among the Machines/Sound Full An ambitious and suitably immersive design, to be recognised specifically for the visual placement of the viewer in each of the experiences;

Lisa Chandler for Daro Montag: Dialogues with Nature. This small publication has a simplicity and clarity that captures the essence of the artist’s work in its quiet interconnectedness.

The final one is the one that takes the prize: Maggie Finch, Robin Rhode: The Call of Walls (National Gallery of Victoria). This is a generous catalogue in which everything is considered – the incredibly simple and stunning detailed sequences of the work that articulate the process of making as well as document the work itself; a text that explains the issues of Rhode’s relationship to the spaces, race relations, youth culture; life on the street within contemporary and historical contexts. This all supported by excellent research and directions for further investigations; and a design that expresses the work right down to the raw tactility of the binding. Maggie Finch’s excellent essay contextualises the work and gives another reference point, beyond but in direct relationship to William Kentridge, for looking at art of international standing coming out of South Africa. The catalogue is, in its totality, an evaluation rather than a celebration that puts the ideas out there and allows the reader every opportunity to get to know the artist and the work.

Judges: Dr Jane Deeth and Dr Deborah Malor

Best Scholarly article in the AAANZ Journal

The best scholarly article in the AAANZ journal is supported by the University of Sydney.

Caroline Jordan, ‘Cultural Exchange in the Midst of Chaos: Theodore Sizer’s exhibition ‘Art of Australia 1788-1941’

Read article here.

Judge: Juliette Peers

Best essay/catalogue/book by an Indigenous Australian or New Zealand Maori

The best essay/catalogue/book by an Indigenous Australian or New Zealand Maorie is supported by Christchurch Art Gallery.  The winner is Stephen Gilchrist, “Indigenising Curatorial Practice” in The World is Not a Foreign Land (Ian Potter Museum of Art).

Judge: Hetti Perkins

Best artist-writer essay/catalogue/book (non-award)

The best artist-writer essay/catalogue/book is supported by Massey University. We have decided to defer the presentation of the AAANZ Artist Book Award in 2014. This is due to: (1) a very limited number of entries received this year; and (2) most of the submissions did not, in our view, qualify as artist books. We also noted that this year’s limited entries did not accurately represent the broad range of artist-led publications currently being produced. As artists, we believe strongly that the artist book is an important and vital contemporary art form, and consequently, we have made recommendations to the AAANZ that we hope will serve as future submission guidelines. We congratulate each of this year’s entries on their efforts, and we hope that next year’s entries will reflect the range and spirit of innovation inherent in this category.

Judges: John di Stefano and Hany Armanious

Best University Art Museums Exhibition Catalogue

The best university art museums exhibition catalogue is supported by the University Arts Museums Association.

This year it is awarded to Ann Stephen, 1969: The Black Box of Conceptual Art (University of Sydney).

Exhibition catalogues were received from art museums at La Trobe University, University of Melbourne, Monash University, University of Sydney and University of Western Australia.

Besides the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery at UWA, that university’s Berndt Museum of Anthropology submitted publications identified as Occasional Papers but which in fact served as exhibition catalogues. The Berndt Museum’s mid-20th-century Arnhem Land and New Guinea Highland anthropology was a pleasing presence in what was chiefly a hotbed of research into contemporary art and visual culture.

‘Visual culture’ included studies of our recent political past such as La Trobe’s I Want Change: Two Decades of Defiance, Disapproval and Dissent. The Lawrence Wilson Gallery’s presentation of art by disabled Western Australians was very of-the-moment. Much more surprising was a monographic study of Vali Myers (1930–2003) by La Trobe University but also shown at Maitland Regional Art Gallery, near where that Outsider artist grew up; later a dog-lady expatriate in Italy, Myers has a following at the University of Northern Kentucky, which collaborated with La Trobe.

Another ambitious international project was Simon Starling: In Speculum. This major British Conceptual artist, a maker of science-and-technology objects, was presented by Monash and toured to the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane and City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand.

The University of Melbourne’s Gigi Scaria: Dust introduced a less familiar twenty-first-century international artist, from India. Scaria’s art was, for this judge, the most engaging new discovery: sinister eco-awareness, refined minimalist visuality. Bala Starr’s catalogue was immaculate, and almost won the prize.

One wondered about the absence of submissions from Curtin University, University of Queensland, and the Samstag Museum at University of South Australia, all of which have published well in the past.

Queensland might have been the first, many years ago, frequently to delay publishing until after their exhibitions had opened, in order to illustrate the works within gallery spaces; a welcome indication of scale, and an interesting record of curatorial contextualisation. This year’s batch of catalogues included many examples of the procedure, apparently now characteristic of university museum publishing. (For obvious commercial reasons, delay is impractical when publishing for big-budget exhibitions in major institutions.) Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery’s Orienting: Ian Fairweather in Western Australian Collections / With or Without You illustrated installation views to great effect, in a rare example of a state gallery-sized catalogue (27 x 23 cm).

Small formats were the norm. For example, all four from Monash were standardised at 20 x 17 cm.

As well as essays by critics, most catalogues presented contemporary artists’ own words, mostly in interviews. Monash’s wonderfully vivid Richard Bell: Lessons on Etiquette and Manners, contained two interviews plus four essays by the artist.

Significant content is not enough. Editing of texts and pictures, book design and production, are what clinch a prize. A white text on pale green ground was a disqualification; so was a bizarre occurrence of very long picture captions entirely in small caps: illegible! Grey texts, sans-serif fonts, and tiny font sizes were discouragements. Copy editing sometimes failed: wrong spelling of a well-known artist’s name (John “Olson”) is unforgivable.

The winner was Ann Stephen’s 1969: The Black Box of Conceptual Art, published by the University Art Gallery, University of Sydney, in association with the Queensland University of Technology Art Museum. A reconstruction of Australia’s first exhibition of Conceptual art, ‘Ian Burn, Roger Cutforth, Mel Ramsden’, held at Pinacotheca, St Kilda, Melbourne, it elucidates a little known major turning point in our own art history. A difficult subject becomes clear, aided by Ann Stephen’s and Andrew McNamara’s writing, surviving artist Mel Ramsden’s words in an interview, and designer Peter Thorn’s superb picture and text layout. As well, the paper stock and cloth cover are unusually elegant and seductive. One blemish, the spelling of a name of a major philanthropist, had to be excused.

When it turned out that the previous year’s UAMA award had gone to the same University of Sydney museum, I reconsidered for a while but did not alter the judgment.

Judge: Dr Daniel Thomas AM

Phd Prize

2013 saw the introduction of the PhD category to our Prizes, with 2014 marking only the second time this prize was awarded. Generously sponsored by our new publishers Taylor & Francis, the winner received $1000.

The AAANZ 2014 PhD Prize had 4 entrants, Peta Carlin of RMIT, Julia Alessandrini, University of Western Australia, Julie Brooke from The Australian National University, and Lucy Hawthorne of the University of Tasmania. The contestants wrote their PhD either in art history, art curatorship or practice-based disciplines. The purpose of the prize is to bring prominence to the work of PhD graduates in the field and to encourage them to present their work in a clear and focused way to an audience. The competition takes the form of a three-minute thesis presentation. We were very fortunate this year to have such high quality PhDs to choose from. In a close field with such excellent standards the judges found it difficult but ultimately it came down to one winner.

Julia Alessandrini was declared the winner for several reasons: the clarity and succinctness of the argument, the persuasive style of presentation, and the elaboration of detail and depth in an efficient manner. Her presentation titled “London Fog and the Symbolism of Empire: Nineteenth-century Representations of Atmosphere in London and Other Imperial Sites” very effectively summarised her argument about how the representation of a natural phenomenon in art was connected to questions of industrialisation and empire in the nineteenth century. The judges were particularly impressed by how Julia was able to put across a sophisticated idea in clear terms, link concrete examples of visual description to an argument, and use body language to effectively communicate her points.

Judges: Dr Anthony White, Professor Andrew McNamara and Professor Catherine Speck