On April 17, 2019 Bard Graduate Center presented the 23rd Annual Iris Foundation Awards at a sold-out luncheon at the Colony Club in New York City.

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 Dr. Laurie Wilkie, was entitled, “Decorating Soldiers: Black Manhood, Citizenship, and Things on the Nineteenth-Century Texas Frontier.” The 24th Annual Iris Foundation Awards will be held on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at the Colony Club in New York City. The announcement of the 2020 honorees and information on purchasing tickets and/or tables will be available on the site in the fall.

More on this year’s award recipients:

Outstanding Patron, Marina Kellen French
An avid supporter of the arts and humanities, both in the United States and abroad, Marina Kellen French is vice president of the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation; president of the Marina Kellen French Foundation; a managing director of the Metropolitan Opera; a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, Carnegie Hall, Hospital for Special Surgery, and the American Academy in Berlin; and a life trustee of the Morgan Library and Museum and WNET Channel 13. In 2014, Ms. Kellen French received the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit (First Class) of the Federal Republic of Germany for her outstanding work in German-American relations.

Outstanding Lifetime Achievement, Jeffrey Munger
From 2000 to 2017, Jeffrey Munger served as curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he curated a number of exhibitions including Global by Design: Chinese Ceramics from the R. Albuquerque Collection (2016) and Imperial Privilege: Vienna Porcelain of Du Paquier, 1718-44 (2009). His articles have appeared in The French Porcelain Society Journal, Quaderni: Amici di Doccia, and the catalogue for the Met’s exhibition Watteau, Music, and Theatre. Through the Met, he was a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and an exchange curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Munger has served on the faculty of the Cooper Hewitt and Smithsonian Design Museum and is a past president and chairman of the board of the American Ceramic Circle.

Outstanding Mid-Career Scholar, Dr. Laurie Wilkie
Dr. Laurie Wilkie, professor of archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley, explores how nineteenth- and twentieth-century expressions of social difference, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, socioeconomics, and politics can be understood through the materiality of everyday life. Her books include The Archaeology of Mothering: An African-American Midwife’s Tale (2003), The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi: A Historical Archaeology of Masculinity in a University Fraternity (2010), and Strung Out on Archaeology (2014). Her current research focuses on the ways black soldiers navigated the racialized landscapes of the western frontier and military life and the ways they deployed material items to express their status as United States citizens.

Outstanding Dealer, Alessandra Di Castro
Alessandra Di Castro hails from a family of highly regarded Italian antique dealers whose eponymous gallery in Rome specializes in Italian decorative and fine arts that evoke the grandeur of Roman classicism throughout history. As a complement to her family’s traditional spheres of interest, she also exhibits twentieth-century Italian avant-garde art and design. The director of Museo Ebraico di Roma (Jewish Museum of Rome) for many years, she was recently named president of the Board of Directors for its Foundation. She also serves on the boards of the Italian Antique Dealers’ Association and Biennale Internazionale dell’Antiquariato di Firenze. Ms. Di Castro shows annually at TEFAF (New York and Maastricht) and the Masterpiece Fair in London. In partnership with Paris-based Galerie Kugel and Galerie Brimo De Laroussilhe, she holds several exhibitions in New York each year.

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


*Deceased