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Clark Art Institute honors Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby with Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing



Scholar and writer Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby has been selected to receive the Clark Art Institute’s 2017 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing. Grigsby is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Arts and Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley. The award presentation will take place on Saturday, April 7, 2018 during an event at the Milton Resnick and Pat Passloff Foundation in New York City.

“The Clark Prize raises awareness of the importance of writing that bridges scholarly and popular interest in the arts and seeks to encourage support for such writing among publishers, editors, and the public,” said Olivier Meslay, the Felda and Dena Hardymon Director of the Clark. “Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby’s writing is deeply rooted in serious academic tradition, but easily connects to the public through compelling prose and thoughtful analysis. We are delighted to recognize her work with the Clark Prize.”

Grigsby, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone, focuses her scholarship onthe history of art and material culture in France and the United States from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century, especially in relation to colonialism, slavery, and constructions of race. She writes on painting, sculpture, photography, and engineering, as well as the relationships among reproductive media and new technologies.

“I am deeply honored to be awarded the Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing,” Grigsby said, “especially because my own priorities as a scholar and teacher so closely match its mission to honor ‘accessible prose that advances public understanding’ and ‘appeal[s] to a diverse range of audiences.’ What an admirable, generous, and profoundly political goal.

“As the daughter of a Panamanian immigrant, a single mother who was hard-working, financially strapped, courageous, accented, and brown,” she explained, “I long hesitated even to aspire to speak about art―an act that I perceived to be the prerogative of a white and typically male elite. How exclusionary can the heady mix of art and money feel to those who are not privileged! In response, my scholarship has been motivated by a commitment to equity, social justice, and the histories of overlooked and disenfranchised persons; thus my focus on slavery, empire, and revolution; thus my need not only to reexamine the canonical, but to analyze other kinds of neglected objects. As an educator at a public university under siege for lack of funding, the very university that introduced me to the field of art history, I attempt to enfranchise students, to empower them to question, resist, and find solace in art, to be curious about history, and to respect difference. Finally, I ask my students to analyze how the visual achieves what words do not, and―here is the kicker―to do so in writing. Art history’s paradox: finding words for what we see, the simplest, most elusive, and challenging of goals.”

Michael Ann Holly, Starr Director Emeritus of the Clark’s Research and Academic Program, led the 2017 jury for the Clark Prize. Other members of the panel included 2006 Clark Prize recipient Kobena Mercer, a scholar and critic, and David Breslin, the DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

“Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby has given us new, yet historically grounded, readings of canonical works of art and artists,” said Holly. “As such she is the first Clark Prize awardee in a few years who is an art historian rather than a scholar of modern and contemporary art. A versatile and graceful writer, she has published stunning essays on nineteenth-century figures ranging from the former slave Sojourner Truth to the influential French painter Théodore Géricault, among many others. Versed in interpretative modes of visual culture, such as postcolonial theory, psychoanalysis, and feminism, her writing is rich in historical detail with contemporary implications.”

Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby's bio

About the Clark Prize
The Clark Prize is funded by the Beinecke Family through the Prospect Hill Foundation. It is accompanied by a $25,000 honorarium and an award designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, the designer of two buildings on the Clark’s Williamstown campus.

The inaugural Clark Prize was awarded in 2006 to three individuals: Kobena Mercer, a writer and critic; Linda Nochlin, an art historian and leader in feminist art history studies; and Calvin Tomkins, author and art critic for The New Yorker magazine. In 2008 Peter Schjeldahl, the esteemed art critic for The New Yorker magazine received the prize, followed by art critic and Princeton University professor Hal Foster in 2010; artist, writer, and critic Brian O’Doherty in 2012; and poet and writer Eileen Myles in 2015.

Members of the Clark Prize jury were chosen for their long-standing commitment to the arts and their expertise in the field. Jurors serve as both nominators and judges. Individuals engaged in all forms of arts writing, including criticism, commentary, monographs, catalogue essays, and biography, are eligible for nomination.

For more information about the award event in New York, please call 413-458-0524.  


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