January 29, 2018
[Digital image available upon request]
Williamstown, Massachusetts—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 Passlof 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 on the 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.”
Grigsby is the author of three books: Enduring Truths: Sojourner’s Shadows and Substance (University of Chicago Press, September 2015), Colossal: Engineering the Suez Canal, Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, and Panama Canal (Periscope Publishing, 2012), and Extremities: Painting Empire in Post-Revolutionary France (Yale University Press, 2002). She is currently working on a fourth book, Creole: Portraying France’s Foreign Relations in the Nineteenth Century, a collection of essays on the relationship between French art and the Caribbean and Americas (Penn State University Press). 
In addition, Grigsby writes regularly for scholarly publications, including Art Bulletin, Art History, October, and Representations and is a frequent contributor to books and anthologies on topics related to her fields of study. Most recently, her essay “Blow-Up! Dynamite, Photographic Projection, and the Sculpting of American Mountains,” appeared in Jennifer Roberts’s edited volume Scale (Terra Foundation, 2016). She is an in-demand lecturer in the United States and abroad, and has made presentations at important academic conferences, including the College Art Association.
In 2016, Grigsby curated an exhibition at the Berkeley Art Museum, Sojourner Truth, Photography and the Fight Against Slavery, that was related to her book on the abolitionist leader and recognized Grigsby’s gift to the museum of her personal collection of American Civil War cartes-de-visites, small photographic calling cards.
She is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including two Andrew W. Mellon New Directions Fellowships; a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts; a J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship; an Andre Chastel Bourse, INHA (Institut national d'histoire de l’art) fellowship at the Villa Medici, Rome; a residential Senior Fellowship at the Terra Foundation for American Art, Giverny, France; and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California, Berkeley. A Fulbright scholar, Grigsby holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and master of arts and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan.
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.

The Clark Art Institute, located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research, critical discussion, and higher education in the visual arts. Opened in 1955, the Clark houses exceptional European and American paintings and sculpture, extensive collections of master prints and drawings, English silver, and early photography. Acting as convener through its Research and Academic Program, the Clark gathers an international community of scholars to participate in a lively program of conferences, colloquia, and workshops on topics of vital importance to the visual arts. The Clark library, consisting of more than 270,000 volumes, is one of the nation’s premier art history libraries. The Clark also houses and co-sponsors the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.
The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $20; free year-round for Clark members, children 18 and younger, and students with valid ID. Free admission is available through several programs, including First Sundays Free; a local library pass program; EBT Card to Culture; Museums for All; Bank of America Museums on Us; and Blue Star Museums. For more information on these programs and more, visit or call 413 458 2303.
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