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College of Arts and Sciences

History of art professor honored with book prize

By: Kathy Hovis,  A&S Communications
June 5, 2019

Cheryl Finley, associate professor of history of art, has won the 2019 Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Book Prize from the Bard Graduate Center for her book, “Committed to Memory: The Art of the Slave Ship Icon.”

The monograph is the first in depth study of the most famous image associated with the memory of slavery — a schematic engraving of a packed slave ship hold — and the art, architecture, poetry and film it has inspired since its creation in Britain in 1788.

Cheryl FinleyThe Horowitz prize is given to the best book on the decorative arts, design history or material culture of the Americas published in 2018.

“In this groundbreaking and evocative multi-disciplinary study, Cheryl Finley demonstrates how historical actors from the late eighteenth century to the present mobilized the cultural force of what she compellingly conceptualizes as the slave ship icon,” said Catherine Whalen, associate professor at the Bard Graduate Center. “Finley convincingly shows how this image, originating in the 1788 British abolitionist print Plan of African Ship’s Lower Deck with Negroes in the Proportion of Only One to a Ton, became a powerful, polyvalent symbol of the African diaspora’s resistance to Euroamerican violence in the Black Atlantic. Importantly, she pays critical attention to the New Negro Arts and Black Arts Movements of the twentieth century, the work of contemporary artists, and complexities of memorialization and cultural tourism.”

In recognition of Finley’s scholarship, Bard Graduate Center will host a symposium on the topic of the book in spring 2020.

A specialist in the art market, Finley’s current research includes the interdisciplinary project, Black Market: Inside the Art World, which examines the global art economy, focusing on the relationship among artists, museums, biennials and tourism. She regularly offers the popular online course, the Art Market, which teaches the chronological history of the art market beginning with the Renaissance patronage model of the Medici’s in Italy and ending with close readings of the contemporary art market from prominent dealers, museums, art fairs and biennales.

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Slave ship image