Caitlin Meehye Beach Awarded the 35th Annual Eldredge Prize for Her Book “Sculpture at the Ends of Slavery”

September 27, 2023
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Cover of book "Sculpture at the ends of slavery"

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has awarded the 35th annual Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art to Caitlin Meehye Beach for her book Sculpture at the Ends of Slavery (University of California Press, 2022). The book explores intersections between the economic wealth generated by enslavement and the materials, production and circulation of 18th- and 19th-century sculpture. Beach highlights the artists’ role in reproducing anti-Blackness even as they professed anti-slavery politics.   

Beach was recognized by an independent panel for her perspective that “advances how American art history approaches racial violence, offering students a model for eliminating racial spectacle.” The jurors also commended Beach’s decade of research and transnational approach to American art history that “broaden[s] the discourse and our understanding of art history of the United States.”

Jurors for the $3,000 prize were Karen Mary Davalos, professor of Chicano and Latino studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Valerie Cassel Oliver, the Sydney and Francis Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; and Laura Kina, Vincent de Paul Professor at the Art School at DePaul University.

Beach is an assistant professor of art history and affiliated faculty in African and African American studies at Fordham University, and for the academic year 2023–24, she is co-director of Fordham’s newly established program in Asian American studies. Her research and teaching focus on transatlantic art histories of the 18th and 19th centuries, with special attention to art’s relationship to racial capitalism and racial formation. Beach’s writing has appeared in British Art Studies, Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide and Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, as well as various edited volumes and exhibition catalogs. She received a doctorate and master’s degree from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College.

Beach will present the annual Eldredge Prize Lecture at the museum March 21, 2024. Details will be available online.

The Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art, 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. The deadline for nominations for the 2024 prize is Jan. 15, 2024.  

Recent Eldredge Prize recipients include Vivien Green Fryd (2022) for Against Our Will: Sexual Trauma in American Art Since 1970; Cherise Smith (2021) for Michael Ray Charles: A Retrospective; and Linda Kim (2020) for Race Experts: Sculpture, Anthropology and the American Public in Malvina Hoffman’s “Races of Mankind.” A complete list of past winners is available online.

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the flagship museum in the United States for American art and craft. It is home to one of the most significant and inclusive collections of American art in the world. The museum’s main building, located at Eighth and G streets N.W., is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The museum’s Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Check online for current hours and admission information. 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.

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