The Art Book Prize is being awarded for the first time tonight. The organisers are aiming to do for the visual arts what the Man Booker has done for the novel.
It takes the place of the long-established Banister Fletcher Prize for the best book on art and architecture published in English during the preceding year—and is one of only two major art book prizes in the United Kingdom, in contrast to the large number of prizes for fiction and biography.
Our shortlist includes historic and modern subjects, including John Goodall’s The English Castle, a book based on profound study and captivatingly written and illustrated; Vaughan Hart’s lively reassessment of Inigo Jones; and Vauxhall Gardens by David Coke and Alan Borg, a consideration of every aspect of this important public space.
The history of exhibitions is represented by Making Art Global: The third Havana Biennial. The history of the second world war and its impact on archicture and design is the theme of Jean-Louis Cohen’s Architecture in Uniform. Recent design history inspired Nicholas de Monchaux’s highly original Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo and Paul Shaw’s finely conceived and illustrated Helvetica and the New York Subway Station, while in Aligheiro e Boeti Mark Godfrey reassesses this influential Italian conceptual artist.
We were faced with a formidable challenge in choosing a winner since all of us on the judging panel have different interests and enthusiasms, and also the field covers the whole range of art, architecture and design. But a decision has been made and we are all happy with it.
Given the importance of prizes for publishing, the Authors’ Club intends to make this award a regular event.
Giles Waterhouse is chair of judges for the Art Book Prize. He is an independent curator and writer, Director of Royal Collection Studies and Associate Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art.