The Smithsonian American Art Museum has awarded the 32nd annual Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art to Linda Kim for her book Race Experts: Sculpture, Anthropology, and the American Public in Malvina Hoffman’s Races of Mankind (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2018). Kim examines how Malvina Hoffman, an American who studied under the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, was commissioned in 1930 by Chicago’s Field Museum to create the more than 100 life-size bronze sculptures for the museum’s now widely discredited 1933 exhibition “Races of Mankind.”
Kim’s book was recognized by an independent panel of jurors as “a tour de force of engaged thinking. Kim’s book is a model of research, analysis and close looking that will engage scholars of American art with interests in both naturalism and the debates animating American art of the 1930s, as well as a broader readership looking for the intersections between art, science and race.”
The three jurors who awarded the $3,000 prize were David McCarthy, professor and chair of art and art history at Rhodes College; Cherise Smith, professor and chair of African and African diaspora studies at the University of Texas at Austin; and Paul Staiti, professor of fine art at Mt. Holyoke College.
The jurors wrote in a joint statement, “what makes the book particularly compelling is how Prof. Kim analyzes contemporaneous discourses surrounding anthropology and art. In her evaluation of early 20th-century anthropology, she directs readers’ attention to how race pseudoscience was defined and challenges readers’ thinking by describing the conception (and practice) of realism in art of the time. She provides a useful model of what art history can teach other disciplines, as well as how to balance careful looking and theoretically oriented pursuits.”
Kim is an associate professor of American and modern art at Drexel University. She has published scholarly articles and essays in the American Art Journal, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies and Visual Resources Journal. She received a doctorate (2006) and master’s degree (1999) in the history of art from University of California, Berkeley.
In conjunction with the award, Kim will present the annual Eldredge Prize Lecture. Details and more information will be available online at americanart.si.edu/events.
The Eldredge Prize, named in honor of the museum’s former director (1982–1988), is sponsored by the American Art Forum, a patrons’ support organization. This annual award, initiated in 1989, recognizes originality and thoroughness of research, excellence of writing and clarity of method. Single-author, book-length publications in the field of American art history appearing within the previous three calendar years are eligible. Dec. 1 is the deadline for 2021 nominations.
Recent Eldredge Prize recipients include Nizan Shaked (2019) for her book The Synthetic Proposition: Conceptualism and the Political Referent in Contemporary Art, Susan Rather (2018) for her book The American School: Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era and Jennifer L. Roberts (2017) for her book Transporting Visions: The Movement of Images in Early America. A complete list of past winners is available online at americanart.si.edu/research/awards/eldredge.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum’s main building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Its Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. Admission is free. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website: americanart.si.edu.