The 16th Annual Iris Foundation Awards for Outstanding Contributions to the Decorative Arts

The 16th Annual Iris Foundation Awards for Outstanding Contributions to the Decorative Arts took place on April 18, 2012 with a luncheon at 583 Park Avenue starting at noon. This year’s honorees are the Koç Family, Hans Ottomeyer, Alisa LaGamma, and Mark McDonald.  The proceeds benefitted BGC Scholarship Fund, which provides financial assistance to future scholars in the field of decorative arts, design history, and material culture studies. Click here for photos.

About the Honorees

The Vehbi Koç Foundation, established in 1969, is dedicated to the social and cultural wellbeing of Turkey. Today the descendants of Vehbi Koç continue his legacy by preserving and promoting the cultural resources of Turkey through the many museums and research centers founded by or supported by members of the family. Inspired by a visit to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, Rahmi M. Koç established the first major museum in Turkey devoted to the history of transportation, industry, and communication. Other museums founded by the family include the Sadberk Hanim Museum, housing a collection of Anatolian antiquities, Ottoman textiles and decorative arts, the Suna-Inan Kiraç Kaleiçi Museum, dedicated to nineteenth-century Turkish life, and the Pera Museum with a permanent collection of Kutahya tiles, Anatolian antiquities and Orientalist European paintings. In addition to museums, the Koç family supports research centers dedicated to the study of Turkish art and culture and this past year New York City was honored by the generosity of the Koç Family when they endowed a portion of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new Islamic Galleries. 

Prof. Dr. Hans Ottomeyer retired from a long and honorable museum career in early 2011. He served as president of the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, where he also teaches at Humboldt University. During his tenure he installed in 2006 the permanent exhibition of German history and provided a model for history museums to be emulated. Ottomeyer has dedicated his work as a scholar to exploring how history is expressed through objects, material culture and works of art. With seven major publications, many innovative exhibition catalogues and over 100 articles, Ottomeyer has examined the history of architecture, interiors, furniture, and the use of silver gilt and bronzes from the late Baroque, Neoclassicism, Empire, and especially Biedermeier, and contributed greatly to our overall understanding of European cultural history.

Alisa LaGamma is curator of African art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her recent exhibition and accompanying publication, Heroic Africans, Legendary Leaders, Iconic Sculptures, has received critical acclaim and her work has been instrumental in rethinking the history of sub-Saharan African art and culture. In 2007 the Association of Art Museum Curators recognized the publication for her exhibition Eternal Ancestors: Art of the Central African Reliquary as among the profession’s outstanding exhibition catalogues. A 1988 graduate of the University of Virginia, LaGamma received her MA and PhD in art history from Columbia University. Her 1995 dissertation: “The Art of the Punu Mukudj Masquerade: Portrait of an Equatorial Society” was based on a year of fieldwork in southern Gabon. Born in the Congo, LaGamma has traveled widely in sub-Saharan Africa and lived in Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Nigeria, Togo, and South Africa. 

Mark McDonald is credited with pioneering the researching, exhibiting, marketing, and selling of what has become known as Mid-Century Modern. In the early 1980s, Mark opened the influential gallery, Fifty/50 in New York City with his partner Ralph Cutler and Mark Isaacson. Exhibitions such as Charles and Ray Eames: The Sum of the Parts, and Venini and the Murano Renaissance: Italian Glass of the 1940’s and 50’s were credited with placing postwar design securely in the modernist lexicon and raising appreciation to serious scholarship. In 2002 Mark embarked on a new venture in Hudson, New York, where he opened, Mark McDonald, home to an extraordinary collection of Mid-Century decorative arts and furniture as well as new, vintage and out-of-print books informing the period. In 2003 Mark published Ceramic Forms of Leza McVey, a monograph on the work of a forgotten mid-century ceramist. 


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Susan Weber, Founder/Director (third from left) with honorees Mark McDonald, Alisa LaGamma, Rahmi Koç, Leon Botstein, President of Bard College, and Hans Ottomeyer.