In light of the rapidly changing situation surrounding COVID-19, Bard Graduate Center will reschedule the Annual Iris Foundation Awards Luncheon previously scheduled for April 1, 2020 to April 28, 2021.

On behalf of the Bard Graduate Center faculty, staff, and students, Dr. Susan Weber, founder and director, thanks this year’s Iris Foundation Award recipients—Dr. Stephen K. Scher, David Revere McFadden, Sanchita Balachandran, and Cristina Grajales—and the many generous contributors who have demonstrated extraordinary support for this year’s event. Their support of the Annual Iris Awards Luncheon benefits emerging scholars in the fields of decorative arts, design history, and material culture through BGC’s scholarship fund.

If you have questions about the Iris Foundation Awards, contact Benjamin Krevolin, chief advancement office, or Minna Lee, associate director of development. Benjamin can be reached at 212-501-3072 or benjamin.krevolin@bgc.bard.edu, and Minna can be reached at 212-501-3038 or minna.lee@bgc.bard.edu. For more information about Bard Graduate Center’s response to COVID-19, visit bgc.bard.edu.

On April 1, 2020 Bard Graduate Center will present the 24th Annual Iris Foundation Awards at an annual luncheon held at the Colony Club in New York City. Click here to learn more.

Founded on the belief that the decorative arts, design history, and material culture are unique academic areas unto themselves, Bard Graduate Center is committed not only to research but also to advocacy and the visibility of the discipline. To further this mission, in 1997 Susan Weber launched the Iris Foundation Awards which are presented to individuals whose scholarship, connoisseurship, and dedication have advanced the understanding of this important field among scholars, collectors, professionals, and the general public.


The Annual Iris Foundation Awards luncheon brings together the design and academic communities to honor outstanding individuals who have contributed to the study and appreciation of the decorative arts, design history, and material culture. The event also includes a lecture by the Outstanding Mid-Career Scholar. This year’s topic, presented by honoree Ms. Sanchita Balachandran is entitled, “Marked in Clay: Interdisciplinary Methods to Re-imagine Ancient Greek Potters at Work.”

More on this year’s award recipients:

Outstanding Patron, Dr. Stephen K. Scher
An avid contributor to the art world, Dr. Steven K. Scher has lectured and published extensively on medieval and Renaissance art. He taught in the Brown University art department from 1961 to 1974, and was president and chief executive officer of Scher Chemicals, Inc. until his retirement in 2004. He has organized exhibitions at The Frick Collection, the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), and the National Galleries of Scotland. Dr. Scher also assembled a significant collection of commemorative portrait medals, the bulk of which was donated to The Frick in 2017. He currently serves as a member of visiting committees at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Frick Collection and associate trustee of the Yale Library. For his service, Dr. Scher received the Yale Medal (2015) and the British Art Medal Society’s President’s Medal (2018).

Outstanding Lifetime Achievement, David Revere McFadden
David Revere McFadden is chief curator emeritus at the Museum of Arts and Design. Before his retirement, he was curator of decorative arts and assistant director for collections and research at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum from 1978 to 1995. In his distinguished career, McFadden has organized over 150 exhibitions on decorative arts, design, and craft, including Hair (1980), Scandinavian Modern 1880-1980 (1982), Wine: Celebration and Ceremony (1985), and Slash: Paper Under the Knife (2009). For his work in cultural affairs, he has been named Knight, First Class, of the Order of the Lion of Finland (1984); Knight Commander of the Order of the Polar Star of Sweden (1988); and Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Republic of France (1989). McFadden has received the Presidential Design Award for Excellence three times (1994, 1995, 1997).

Outstanding Mid-Career Scholar, Sanchita Balachandran
Sanchita Balachandran is associate director of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum and senior lecturer in the department of Near Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins University. Trained as an objects conservator specializing in archaeological materials, she uncovers traces of past peoples and cultural practices on objects. For a recent exhibition, Who Am I? Remembering the Dead through Facial Reconstruction (2018), Balachandran collaborated with specialists to reconstruct the faces of two ancient Egyptian women. She teaches courses on the technical study of ancient objects and the history and ethics of museum conservation. Balachandran is a fellow of the American Institute for Conservation and founder and director of Untold Stories, a non-profit organization that represents and preserves a fuller spectrum of human cultural heritage in art conversation.

Outstanding Dealer, Cristina Grajales
Hailed as one of the most respected experts in the design field, Cristina Grajales founded her eponymous gallery in New York in 2001. She previously served as director of 1950 Gallery from 1990 to 2000, where she developed the gallery into a premiere source for mid-century design.

Cristina Grajales Gallery is one of the forerunners in the design world, specializing in contemporary and twentieth-century design and the cultivation of emerging designers. With over thirty years of experience, Grajales has served as an advisor to a number of collectors, assisting them in building valuable collections. In 2001, she founded the lecture series “Dialogues with Design Legends” at the 92nd Street Y. Grajales is a frequent guest lecturer, panelist, and contributor to various publications, and maintains a full program of exhibitions at international art and design fairs.

Past Awardees

Award Recipients 1997–2018

1997
Harold M. Williams*
Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue*

1998
Jayne Wrightsman*
Graham Hood
Pamela Robertson

1999
Lord Rothschild
Peter Thornton*
Ellen Lupton

2000
James Biddle*
Anne L. Poulet
Edward S. Cooke, Jr.

2001
The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire*
Jules David Prown
Craig Clunas

2002
James R. Houghton
Geoffrey Beard*
Valerie Steele

2003
Hélène David-Weill
Simon Jervis
Thomas P. Campbell

2004
Lily Safra
Hugh Honour*
Paola Antonelli

2005
Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.
Jane C. Nylander
Evelyn Welch

2006
John H. Bryan*
Jonathan Fairbanks
Dianne Harris
The Fine Art Society

2007
Liliane M. Stewart*
Henry Hawley*
Barry Bergdoll
Eric N. Shrubsole*

2008
Phyllis Lambert
Robert Hillenbrand
David Crowley
Philippe de Montebello

2009
Dr. Mortimer Sackler* and Dame Theresa Sackler
Sir Hugh Roberts
Daniel Miller
Alexis Kugel and Nicolas Kugel

2010
Patricia Phelps de Cisneros
Neil Harris
John Styles

2011
Shelley and Donald Rubin
John Harris
Juliet Kinchin
Bernard Dragesco

2012
The Koç Family
Hans Ottomeyer
Alisa LaGamma
Mark McDonald

2013
Richard Jenrette*
Morrison H. Heckscher
Glenn Adamson
Adrian Sassoon

2014
Iris Cantor
Dame Rosalind J. Savill
Finbarr Barry Flood
Martin Levy

2015
Barbro S. Osher
Sir Mark Jones
Nicholas Thomas
Deedee Wigmore

2016
Sir Paul Ruddock
Harold Koda
Giorgio Riello
Michele Beiny-Harkins

2017
Sir Nicholas Goodison
Alvar González-Palacios
Marie-Louise Bech Nosch
Titi Halle

2018
John C. Waddell
Dr. Aileen Ribeiro
Dr. Jason Sun
Benoist F. Drut

2019
Marina Kellen French
Jeffrey Munger
Dr. Laurie Wilkie
Alessandra Di Castro

*Deceased