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Smithsonian's Archives of American Art Announces Recipients of Medal and Award

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art will honor the distinguished careers of artists Ellen Phelan and Joel Shapiro, and art dealers Joan T. Washburn and Virginia M. Zabriskie, with the Archives of American Art Medal at its annual benefit gala Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. The Lawrence A. Fleischman Award for Scholarly Excellence in the Field of American Art History also will be presented that evening to Neil Harris, the Preston and Sterling Morton Professor Emeritus of History and Art History at the University of Chicago.

Each year, the Archives of American Art Medal honors a critic, collector, artist or dealer for his sustained distinguished service in advancing the field of American art. Award recipients are selected by the Archives’ board of trustees, which is composed of artists and philanthropic and corporate leaders from across the United States. Past recipients include Eli Broad, Chuck Close, Paula Cooper, André Emmerich, Agnes Gund and Ellsworth Kelly.

The Oct. 30 benefit will be the largest in the Archives’ history and is being chaired by Barbara G. Fleischman, Diane A. Fogg, Suzanne D. Jaffe, Janice C. Oresman and a steering committee of more than 30 dealers, collectors and patrons from the American art community. The Archives of American Art medals will be presented to the honorees by Richard Armstrong, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Carnegie Museum of Art; Richard Shiff, Professor, Department of Art & Art History, University of Texas at Austin; and Sanford Schwartz, contributing writer, “The New York Review of Books.”

The following are short biographies on the 2008 Archives of American Art Medal recipients:

Ellen Phelan
A founding member of the Detroit Artist’s Workshop and of artists’ cooperative Willis Gallery, Phelan’s work is represented in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Detroit Institute of the Arts and San Francisco MoCA, among others. Phelan has taught at a number of institutions including Bard College, New York University and Harvard University, where she served as Professor of the Practice of Studio Arts, Department of Visual and Environmental Studies (1995-2001). Phelan’s various awards include the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship (1978-1979) and The New York Times American Academy in Rome Resident in Visual Arts (1999). Upcoming projects include a survey of her artwork “Ellen Phelan: Theme and Variations 1972-2010”at The Marion Kugler McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, in 2010.

Joel Shapiro
Since his first solo exhibition in 1970, Shapiro’s work has been the subject of over 150 solo exhibitions and retrospectives. He has participated in several prestigious group exhibitions such as the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1977, 1979, 1981 and 1989), Documenta in Kassel, Germany (1977, 1982) and the Venice Biennale (1980). More than 30 commissions and publicly sited sculptures by Shapiro are located in major Asian, European and North American cities, and his work can be found in more than 95 public collections in the United States and abroad. Shapiro has been honored with numerous awards including the Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France (2005), National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship (1975), the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (1986) and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award of Merit for Sculpture (1990). Shapiro is currently working on a new public commission to be installed on the famed Savile Row in the heart of Westminster, London, in 2009.

Joan T. Washburn
Washburn is one of New York’s pre-eminent art dealers. A graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, Washburn worked first as a secretary at Kraushaar Galleries and then as associate director at the Graham Gallery in New York. In 1971 she opened the Washburn Gallery on Madison Avenue, which was quickly recognized by museum and collectors for an active and innovative schedule of exhibitions. During the inaugural season, the gallery presented the first New York exhibition of paintings by Joshua Johnson, paintings by Martin Johnson Heade and, in contrast, 1930s’ and 1940s’ paintings by Jean Xceron. For 37 years, the Washburn Gallery, now located at 20 West 57th Street, has organized carefully selected exhibitions of works by major 19th- and 20th-century American artists. The Gallery represents a number of estates and foundations including Ilya Bolotowsky, Jackson Pollock and David Smith and the work of contemporary artists Nicolas Carone, Tom Levine, Gwynn Murrill and Jack Youngerman.

Virginia M. Zabriskie
In 1954, Zabriskie paid one dollar to assume the lease of a small gallery space on the second floor of 835 Madison Avenue. A graduate of New York University and École de Louvre in Paris, the Zabriskie Gallery showed the work of several young unknown artists such as Pat Adams, Clinton Hill and Lester Johnson. By the early 1980s, Zabriskie Gallery expanded into three spaces including the Galerie Zabriskie in Paris. The Galerie produced several landmark photography exhibitions and fostered a creative cultural exchange between the United States and Europe in terms of art photography. Today, Zabriskie Gallery occupies a single exhibition space in the Fuller Building in New York City and has mounted more than 800 exhibitions featuring both contemporary and modernist works of art.

Neil Harris
The Archives also will present The Lawrence A. Fleischman Award for Scholarly Excellence in the Field of American Art History to Neil Harris, the Preston and Sterling Morton Professor Emeritus of History and Art History at the University of Chicago. The award was established in 1998 by Trustee Barbara G. Fleischman as a tribute to her late husband, Lawrence A. Fleischman, who co-founded the Archives in 1954. Past recipients include Wanda Corn, Linda Ferber, Robert Storr and John Wilmerding.

Harris’ scholarship centers on the evolution of American cultural life, and more particularly on the formation and sustenance of its supporting institutions. His work gives special emphasis to the history of museums and libraries, the social history of art and design, the development of world fairs, the character of art collecting, the design of consumption and shopping experiences and the relationship between people and the built landscape. Harris’ current projects include a study of J. Carter Brown and the National Gallery of Art and an examination of American newspaper buildings. Harris is the author of “The Artist in American Society” (1966), “Building Lives: Constructing Rites and Passages” (1999) and several other publications, articles and essays.

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