Art historian Griselda Pollock wins Holberg Prize

Griselda Pollock – Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art at Leeds – was announced this morning as the recipient of this year’s Holberg Prize.

Professor Griselda Pollock, who has won the Holberg Prize

Art historian Griselda Pollock wins Holberg Prize. March 2020

Awarded annually for outstanding research in the arts and humanities, social science, law or theology, the prize was established in 2003 by the Norwegian government and is worth NOK 6,000,000 (approximately £500,000).

As well as recognising groundbreaking work in the disciplines, the prize is intended to raise their status in society and to stimulate interest in these fields among children and young people.

It will be presented at the University of Bergen on Thursday 4 June.

This is the first time that the award, which has been described as the ‘Nobel Prize’ for academic disciplines not covered by the more established Swedish accolades, has been awarded to an art historian.

A world-leading figure in art and cultural studies and a member of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at Leeds, Professor Pollock will receive the award in recognition of her profound influence on art history, as well as on related fields, including feminist cinema studies, trauma studies and Holocaust studies.

“I am as profoundly stunned as I am deeply honoured by the award of the Holberg Prize for 2020,” she said.

“It is the most prestigious international prize for scholars working in the arts, humanities and social sciences. It thus publicly endorses the value of, and urgent necessity for, our research and teaching.

“Previous laureates are all giants in these fields. I have drawn on the work of so many of them in my own 50-year project as a feminist theorist and art historian, and as a transdisciplinary cultural analyst.

“I thank my colleagues at the University for my nomination. This award arises not only from my own long career dedicated to challenging the wrongs and violence of the patriarchal, the sexist, the racist, the homophobic, the anti-semitic and the Eurocentric in art, thought and culture, it is also a very public approbation and recognition of the intellectual and pedagogical importance and the larger cultural impact of feminist, postcolonial and queer interventions in the way we understand our cultures, past and present.”

Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor at Leeds, said: “The whole University sends its warmest congratulations to Professor Griselda Pollock on this wonderful news.

“She joins a distinguished list of highly acclaimed laureates, which is testimony to her long and illustrious career, which spans five decades.

“Griselda Pollock is a beacon for generations of art and cultural historians and as the foremost feminist art historian working in the world today, her scholarly contributions to the field of research she helped to create are truly inspirational.”

Renowned authority 

Professor Pollock helped to create feminist art history as an academic field in the 1970s and has remained a renowned authority in the field ever since.

Describing the key purpose of her work, she said: “I analyse and resist the injuries of class, race, gender and sexuality as they are inflicted through images and cultural forms, such as media, cinema, art, literature and academic thought.

“I have spent 40 years creating new concepts with which to challenge art history’s white patriarchal structure to produce ways of thinking about art, its images, its practices and its effects that are not about admiration of selective greatness.”

To date, Professor Pollock has published 22 monographs and hundreds of scholarly articles in journals and books.

Landmark publications 

Her landmark publications, from Old Mistresses: Women, Art & Ideology (with Rozsika Parker, 1981) and Vision and Difference (1988) to more recent books, such as Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum (2007) After-affects/After-images: Trauma And Aesthetic Transformation (2013) and her monograph, Charlotte Salomon in the Theatre of Memory (2018), offer probing analyses of key moments in the formation of modern and contemporary culture to reveal the sexual, and racial, politics at the heart of modernist art and art history.

Old Mistresses: Women Art & Ideology (with Rozsika Parker,1981) and Vision and Difference (1988) have been translated into several languages, from Mandarin and Japanese to Spanish and German, and have had profound international influence.

A long-standing scholar of Hollywood cinema from the 1950s, she is currently writing a feminist study of the ‘agency’ and the ‘image’ of Marilyn Monroe.

Professor Pollock was nominated for the Holberg Prize by Abigail Harrison Moore, Professor of Art History and Museum Studies, during the latter's tenure as Head of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies. 

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