HBA Book Awards 2023

The Historians of British Art Book Prize Committee is pleased to announce the Book Award winners for publications produced in the 2021 calendar year. The winners were chosen from a nominating list of seventy books from twenty-six different presses. Awards were granted in six different categories.

The award for a single-authored book with a subject before 1600 goes to Manolo GuerciLondon’s Golden Mile: The Great Houses of the Strand, published by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art / Yale University Press. 

The award for a single-authored book with a subject between 1600-1800 is awarded to Henrietta McBurneyIlluminating Natural History: The Art and Science of Mark Catesby, published by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art / Yale University Press.

The award for a single-authored book with a subject between 1800–1960 goes to Anna Arabindan-KessonBlack Bodies, White Gold: Art, Cotton, and Commerce in the Atlantic World, published by Duke University Press.

The award for a single-authored book with a contemporary subject goes to Michael ProkopowHurvin Anderson, published by Lund Humphries.

The multi-authored book prize goes to David A. Bailey and Allison Thompson, eds., Liberation Begins in the Imagination: Writings on British Caribbean Art, published by the Tate.

The prize for exhibition catalogue is jointly awarded to Sarah Martin and Fiona Parry, eds., for Barbara Walker, from Turner Contemporary, and to Naomi Speakman and Lloyd de Beer for Thomas Becket: Murder and the Making of a Saint, from the British Museum.

Travis Alabanza’s Look Again: Gender, published by the Tate, is Highly Commended for accessible art writing.

HBA would like to offer congratulations to the winning authors and the publishing teams at the British Museum, Duke University Press, Lund Humphries, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art / Yale University Press, the Tate Gallery, and Turner Contemporary. 

This year’s committee of readers consisted of Alison Syme (Chair), Julian Luxford, Temi Odumosu, and Lizzie Robles.

HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period before 1600

Manolo Guerci, London’s Golden Mile: The Great Houses of the Strand, 1550–1650, London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art / Yale University Press, 2021. ISBN: 978-1-9131-0723-9

In London’s ‘Golden Mile’, a beautifully produced volume, Manolo Guerci analyses the design, patronage, and ownership of eleven of the early modern townhouses built along The Strand in London. These brilliant, aristocratic residences did not belong to the street-facing London of today. Nine of them faced the River Thames, a fact to remind readers of the store that was set in forging relationships between architecture and water. Guerci is appropriately sensitive to such relationships, and he brings these houses effectively to life through detailed description and illustration, making expert use of surviving records, many of which have never been published before. The result is a pioneering work that embodies a highly readable mix of architectural and social history.

Manolo Guerci is an architectural historian trained both as an architect and historian in Rome, London, Paris, and Cambridge. His interests and expertise range from domestic architecture in Early-Modern Europe to Modernism, Japan, and Post War; from conservation principles and theories to construction processes and building techniques. As part of his training on the conservation of historic buildings, he worked in France for the “Monuments Historiques.” In 2016, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in London in recognition of his achievements in these fields. Dr Guerci is a Reader and BA Architecture Part 1 Programme Director at the Kent School of Architecture and Planning, University of Kent, where he is a member of the Centre for Research on European Architecture. He is currently working on a new critical edition cum catalogue of the “Book of Architecture of John Thorpe” (c.1565-1655), preserved at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, to be published on the museum’s website as open access.

HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period between 1600-1800

Henrietta McBurney, Illuminating Natural History: The Art and Science of Mark Catesby, London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art / Yale University Press, 2021. ISBN: 978-1-9131-0719-2

Illuminating Natural History is a rigorously researched and beautifully illustrated monograph on the life and art of naturalist Mark Catesby (1683-1749), who travelled in 1712 from Suffolk to emerging colonies in North America and Caribbean and produced detailed representations of the natural world in South Carolina, Florida, and the Bahamas, eventually creating one of the earliest and most expensive visual compendia of its kind. McBurney writes with clarity and insight, building on the limited scholarship previously conducted on this artist’s work and situating Catesby in the enlightenment knowledge world, where amateur interest quickly became professionalized. Mining archives for previously unpublished works, documents, and correspondences, she humanizes Catesby’s practice as one of dogged commitment, also marked by failures and vulnerabilities. McBurney further recognizes Catesby as a colonial artist, whose prolific contribution to the natural sciences was indebted to the knowledge and expertise of Native American and African people. Illuminating Natural History provides necessary insight into the creation of awe-inspiring artworks, revealing that the labor required to produce such visual evidence required not only artistic skill, but also grit, intense focus, and an extended collaborative network.

Henrietta McBurney, MVO, FLS, FSA, is an art historian and curator. She worked as Curator of Prints and Drawings in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle between 1983 and 2002, and subsequently as Keeper of Fine and Decorative Art at Eton College. Based in Cambridge, UK, she now works free-lance for Cambridge colleges, lectures, and co-teaches courses for the Oak Spring Library Foundation, VA, and for the London Rare Books School, University of London. She has a particular interest in the intersection of art and science and has published widely on aspects of natural history illustration, including catalogues raisonné on the Florilegium of Alexander Marshal (2000) and the Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo (2017). Illuminating Natural History: The Art and Science of Mark Catesby (2021) is her most recent book.

HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period between 1800-1960

Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Black Bodies, White Gold: Art, Cotton, and Commerce in the Atlantic World, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN: 978-1-4780-1406-5

Arabindan-Kesson’s book investigates what at first seems obvious: the equivalence of black bodies and white cotton produced by slavery and the networks of racial capitalism. But Black Bodies, White Gold’s exploration of this equation, as played out on material and visual as well as economic registers, is a richly layered, nuanced, and illuminating account of not only reification and exploitation but also challenges to this logic through self-fashioning, haptic intimacies, and transatlantic solidarities. Contemporary artworks centering cotton and its histories by Lubaina Himid, Yinka Shonibare, and Hank Willis Thomas frame and anchor the discussion, which loops back to them repeatedly on its journey from the 18th century onward and around the Atlantic. Primarily grounded in a 19th-century archive that includes “negro cloth” and chintz as well as paintings, prints, and texts, Arabindan-Kesson’s book demonstrates the endurance post-slavery of what she terms a speculative vision that sees the natural world and black lives as raw materials, through a lens of profit. Beautifully written and theorised, it offers a model of art history that traverses national boundaries to unfold a legacy of visual commodification while opening up glimpses of alternatives.

Anna Arabindan-Kesson is an Associate professor of Black Diasporic art with a joint appointment in the Departments of African American Studies and Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. She focuses on African American, Caribbean, and British Art, with an emphasis on histories of race, empire, medicine, and transatlantic visual culture in the long 19th century. Black Bodies, White Gold is her first book. Other projects include a co-written book with Prof Mia Bagneris on 19th-century Black Diaspora artists, and a monograph on the intersection of art and medicine in plantation imagery. She is the 2022 Terra Foundation Rome Prize Fellow, a Senior Research Fellow of the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the director of the digital humanities project Art Hx: Visual and Medical Legacies of British Colonialism (www.artandcolonialmedicine.com).

HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Contemporary Period

Michael J. Prokopow, Hurvin Anderson, London: Lund Humphries, 2021. ISBN: 978-1-8482-2477-3

This beautifully illustrated book carefully maps, for the first time with such depth, the richness of Anderson’s oeuvre across several decades. Here, the celebrated and familiar large canvases of barbershop scenes and Caribbean landscapes which have featured in key exhibitions including the Royal West of England Academy’s Jamaican Pulse (2016) and, more recently, Tate’s Life Between Islands (2021), and which were central to the artist’s Turner Prize nomination in 2017, are contextualized not only within broader dialogues around diaspora and its politics but also within a painting practice vested with complex philosophical and art historical implications. Prokopow’s concise and careful examination of Anderson’s work, which draws heavily on interviews with the artist and is supplemented by images from the artist’s archive, is an important and incisive contribution to the field of study around contemporary painting in Britain.

Dr. Michael J. Prokopow is an historian and curator. His areas of expertise include material and visual culture, design and architecture, cultural theory, postcolonial and decolonization theory and museum and curatorial practice. He has published widely on aesthetics, craft and modernism. In 2016, he co-curated with Dr. Rachel Gotlieb the critically acclaimed exhibition “True Nordic: How Scandinavia influenced design in Canada,” which traveled across Canada. He is currently completing a book on contemporary residential architecture in British Columbia to be published by Figure 1 Press and a survey chapter of Canadian design after 1945 for the Bloomsbury World History of Design (Vol. 3). Michael serves on a number of non-profit boards, including the Arthur Erickson Foundation, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale and the editorial board of Studio: Craft and Design in Canada. Previously, he served on the boards of C Magazine, Architectural Conservatory of Ontario and Craft Ontario. He is a faculty member at OCAD University in Toronto, ON, Canada.

HBA Book Award for an Exemplary Multi-authored Book

David A. Bailey and Allison Thompson, eds., Liberation Begins in the Imagination: Writings on Caribbean-British Art, London: Tate Publishing, 2021. ISBN: 978-1-8497-6766-8

Liberation Begins in the Imagination is a vital and comprehensive volume that brings together key texts and new scholarship around Caribbean-British Art from the late twentieth century and into the present day. This rich chorus of voices is organized around three core themes: context, practice, and representation. This configuration allows Bailey and Thompson to feature not only those seminal essays which here provide the reader with important historical and scholarly context for the relationship between the anglophone Caribbean and British art histories during the post-war period (some of which are supplemented by new forwards) but also to look closely at a selection of individual artists and raise new questions around institutional systems of representation and the “illusion of inclusion.” Central to the book’s premise is the importance of disentangling the specificity of the Caribbean and its diasporas to complicate and enrich dialogues around Black British and British art histories more broadly. 

David A. Bailey MBE is a photographer, writer, curator, lecturer, and cultural facilitator who lives and works in London. He is currently Artistic Director of ICF, International Curators Forum. One of David’s main concerns is the notion of diaspora and black representation in art. He co-curated the ground-breaking exhibitions Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance with Richard J. Powell at the Hayward Gallery in London in 1997, and Back to Black: Art, Cinema and the Racial Imaginary with Petrine Archer-Straw and Richard J. Powell at Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 2005. David’s key co-curatorial work in the Caribbean includes the BDVA Black Diaspora Visual Arts in Barbados in 2009 and The Black Jacobins in Barbados and Martinique 2011. Other important projects include The Caribbean Pavilion at the 2010 Liverpool Biennale, co-editing Curating In The Caribbean from 2011, and the Life Between Islandsexhibition, 2021/22, at the Tate Britain.

Allison Thompson (Ph.D.) is an art historian, writer, curator and a lecturer in the Division of Fine Arts at the Barbados Community College. She is co-director of PUNCH Creative Arena, an initiative for creative action. Thompson is the Deputy-Chair of the Barbados National Art Gallery board and founding president of AICA Southern Caribbean. She has worked with the International Curators Forum’s mentoring program, “Beyond the Frame” and with the Black Diaspora Visual Arts project since 2009, organizing a series of symposiums and exhibitions aimed at creating greater visibility for Caribbean art and developing stronger and sustainable working relationships throughout the diaspora. She is co-author of the book Art in Barbados: What kind of mirror image and co-edited Curating in the Caribbean.

HBA Book Award for an Exemplary Exhibition Catalogue

Fiona Parry and Sarah Martin, eds., Barbara Walker, Margate: Turner Contemporary, 2021. ISBN: 978-1-9996-0883-5

Barbara Walker is a thoughtfully curated and illustrated catalogue exploring the politics of in/visibility as well as the poetics of co-presence that surrounds the artist’s monumental portrait practice. The catalogue also manages to convey a sense of the scale of the artist’s work in different exhibition spaces with a particularly arresting image of Walker erasing her own work from gallery walls. Three poignant essays by Sarah Martin, Paul Gilroy, and Aïcha Mehrez expound different dimensions of Walker’s ethics of care, in her attentive drawings of both living and historical (often anonymous) Black subjects. This is complemented by an insightful artist interview with Courtney J. Martin, where Walker critically asks: “how do we challenge the erasure of certain people from society, and from art history?” (p. 51). Overall, the catalogue conveys a quiet confidence comparable with that of the artist, who encourages viewers to honor Black presence and humanity, through tender and yet urgent mark making.

Barbara Walker was born in Birmingham, England, in 1964. Her work is informed by the social, political, and cultural realities that affect her life and the lives of those around her. Growing up in Birmingham, her experiences have directly shaped a practice concerned with issues of class and power, gender, race, representation, and belonging. Her figurative drawings and paintings tell contemporary stories hinged on historical circumstances, making them universally understood and reflecting a human perspective on the state of affairs in her native Britain and elsewhere. Walker was the 2020 Bridget Riley Fellow at the British School at Rome. In 2019 she was awarded an MBE and in 2017 and exhibited at the 57th Venice Biennale as part of the Diaspora Pavilion. In 2017 she received the Drawing Room Bursary Award and inaugural Evelyn Williams Drawing Award in association with the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.  Walker’s recent solo exhibitions include Vanishing Point, Cristea Roberts Gallery (2022), Place Space Who (2019) at Turner Contemporary; Vanishing Point at Jerwood Gallery (2018), Shock and Awe at Midlands Arts Centre (2016). Her works have been included in significant group exhibitions in the UK and internationally including: Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present (2023); Life Between Islands, Caribbean – British Art, 50s to Now, Tate Britain (2021); Lahore Biennale: Between the Sun and the Moon (2020).

Sarah Martin is Head of Exhibitions at Turner Contemporary, Margate where she has curated one-person exhibitions, sculpture displays, and contemporary commissions in the gallery and off-site by artists including Laura Ford, Daniel Buren, Alex Katz, Krijn de Koning, Spencer Finch, Cornelia Parker, John Akomfrah, and Lindsay Seers. Previously she worked at Camden Arts Centre, London; Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead; and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London. She studied at the University of Essex and the University of Sussex.

Fiona Parry is a curator and gardener. Until 2022 she was Senior Curator at Turner Contemporary, where she curated solo exhibitions by artists including Larry Achiampong, Michael Armitage, Katie Paterson, Grayson Perry, and Rose Wylie, and group exhibitions including Animals & Us. She co-curated Turner Prize 2019 and worked on Barbara Walker’s site-specific installation Place, Space and Who. She has also held curatorial roles at the Science Museum, Cubitt Gallery and Studios, and Nottingham Contemporary. She is currently retraining and working as a gardener, and exploring collaborative projects between art and horticulture.

Lloyd de Beer and Naomi Speakman, eds., Thomas Becket: Murder and the Making of a Saint, London: British Museum Press, 2021. ISBN: 978-0-7141-2838-2

Thomas Becket: Murder and the Making of a Saint is a remarkable book which makes important contribution to the study of medieval art. First and foremost, it is the catalogue of a ground-breaking exhibition mounted at the British Museum in 2021 and curated by the authors (Lloyd de Beer and Naomi Speakman). As such, it incorporates the show’s remarkable exhibits, drawn from continental Europe as well as England. There are some important revelations, including the large capital from the base of Becket’s shrine, carved of a ruddy coloured stone chosen to evoke the blood and brains spilled in the act of martyrdom. However, the book is not simply a collection of seriatim entries: it is much more like a monograph of eight chapters, tracing the history of the saint from birth c.1120 to his damnatio memoriae by Henry VIII in fresh and insightful ways. 

Naomi Speakman is Curator of Late Medieval Europe at the British Museum where she works on the European collection ca. 1050-1500 CE. She received her PhD from the Courtauld Institute of Art for her thesis on the collecting and reception of medieval ivory carvings in 19th-century Britain and is preparing a monograph drawn from her doctoral research. During her tenure at the British Museum her work has focused on the art and material culture of Northern and Western Europe, their afterlives and the intersection between art history and museology. She co-curated the 2021 exhibition Thomas Becket: Murder and the Making of a Saint and co-authored the accompanying catalogue.

Lloyd de Beer is a medieval curator at the British Museum and director of the British Archaeological Association. In 2021 he co-curated the exhibition Thomas Becket: Murder and the Making of a Saint and co-authored the accompanying catalogue. He is currently working on two projects: a monograph, English Alabaster Sculpture in the Middle Ages: Imagery, Trade, Iconoclasm, Reuse, as well as a three-year British Academy-funded fellowship exploring the material connections between England and West Africa in the Middle Ages and early modern period.

Highly Commended for Accessible Art Writing

Travis Alabanza, Look Again: Gender. London: Tate Publishing, 2021. ISBN: 978-1-8497-6715-6.

The Tate’s Look Again series of short books is intended to open up “conversations about British Art over the last 500 years” and its relevance today. Of the first four published, theatre-maker Travis Albanza’s stands out for its buoyant, laugh-out-loud funny, serious, and incisive take on gender in the gallery. An introductory evocation of Butler and gender as performance sets up the following “indulge[nce] in the drama” of gender and art. Brief dialogues between the characters of Marcus Gheeraerts’s Captain Thomas Lee and The Cholmondley Ladies, and monologues by rule breakers precede a participatory piece in which the spectator/reader looks intently at Ajamu’s Self-Portrait in a Wedding Dress before doing a whispered, co-scripted scene with a mirror. The book flows from the gender-normative and racially hierarchized majority of the historical works in the gallery (with glimpses of other possibilities) to a trans-formational epilogue, a conversation between Henry Moore’s Reclining and Recumbent Figures. It’s a surprising, delightful, and above all liberatory engagement with artworks and our “long durational performance piece with gender.”

Travis Alabanza is an award-winning writer, performer and theatre maker. After being the youngest recipient of the Artist-in-Residency programme at Tate Galleries, Alabanza’s debut show Burgerz toured internationally to sold-out performances in the Southbank Centre, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and HAU, Berlin, and won the Edinburgh Fringe Total Theatre Award. In 2020 their theatre show Overflow debuted at the Bush Theatre to widespread acclaim and later streamed online in over 20 countries. Their writing has appeared in the Guardian, Vice, gal-dem and BBC Online, and they previously had a fortnightly column in the Metro. They have been published in numerous anthologies, including Black and Gay In the UK. Their work surrounding gender, trans identity and race has garnered international recognition, and they have given talks at universities including Oxford, Harvard, Bristol and more.

The book prize committee would also like to recognize the excellent scholarship of the finalists in these categories:

Exemplary Scholarship on the Period between 1800–1960

Joseph McBrinn, Queering the Subversive Stitch: Men and the Culture of NeedleworkLondon: Bloomsbury, 2021.

Sean Willcock, Victorian Visions of War and Peace: Aesthetics, Sovereignty, and Violence in the British Empire, London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art / Yale University Press, 2021.

Exemplary Scholarship on the Contemporary Period

Eddie Chambers, World is Africa: Writings on Diaspora Art, London: Bloomsbury, 2021.

Exemplary Multi-authored Book

Martin Roberts, Nikolaus Pevsner, and Elizabeth Williamson, The Buildings of England: County Durham, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021.

Andrea Rose et al., Leon Kossoff: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, London: Modern Art Press, 2021.

Exemplary Exhibition Catalogue

Michael Wellen, ed., Lubaina Himid, London: Tate Publishing, 2021. 

Alex Farquharson and David A. Bailey, eds., Life Between Islands: Caribbean-British Art 1950s ­– Now, London: Tate Publishing, 2021.

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