The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Book Prize

2018 Winner

Princeton University Press, 2018.

We are pleased to announce that the book Committed to Memory: The Art of the Slave Ship Icon by Cheryl Finley published by Princeton University Press has been awarded the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Book Prize for the best book on the decorative arts, design history, or material culture of the Americas published in 2018. The book offers a learned and highly imaginative study of the ramifying life of an object’s image: the eighteenth-century English abolitionist printed cross-section of a slave ship with its bound and supine cargo. An example of Warburgian iconography carried on into the present of artists and social activists, this book shows how cultural history, done well, can make the shock of the new more shocking.

“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. 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 Negro Arts and Black Arts Movements of the twentieth century, the work of contemporary artists, and complexities of memorialization and cultural tourism.”—Prof. Catherine Whalen

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

Cheryl Finley is associate professor of art history at Cornell University. She is the coauthor of Harlem: A Century in Images and the coeditor of Diaspora, Memory, Place: David Hammons, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Pamela Z.

2019 Submission Guidelines

Bard Graduate Center welcomes submissions for the 2019 Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Book Prize, awarded annually to the best book on the decorative arts, design history, or material culture of the Americas. The prize will reward scholarly excellence and commitment to cross-disciplinary conversation. Eligible titles include monographs, exhibition catalogues, and collections of essays in any language, published in print or in digital format. The winning author(s) or editor(s) will be chosen by a committee of Bard Graduate Center faculty and will be honored with a symposium on the subject of the book. Submissions must have a 2019 publication date.

Three copies of each print title should be sent to the below address along with an entry submission form. For digital publications, please email a copy of the form along with a link to the publication and a PDF of the publication to horowitz.prize@bgc.bard.edu.

Horowitz Book Prize Committee
Bard Graduate Center
38 West 86th Street
New York, NY 10024

Submissions must be postmarked by March 1, 2020. There is no limit to the number of submissions, but please note we are unable to return items submitted for review. Incomplete submissions will not be considered. Shipping is the responsibility of the applicant and we are not able to confirm receipt of submissions. The winning title will be announced in later summer 2020.

For questions, contact Laura Minsky, Assistant Director for Research Programs, at horowitz.prize@bgc.bard.edu.

Past Winners

2017 Winner

We are pleased to announce that the book Inka History in Knots: Reading Khipus as Primary Sources by Gary Urton published by University of Texas Press has been awarded the inaugural Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Book Prize for the best book on the decorative arts, design history, or material culture of the Americas published in 2017. The book presents a comprehensive overview of the types of information recorded in these knotted strings, demonstrating how they can serve as primary documents for a history of the Inka Empire.


Says Dean Peter N. Miller:

“This book demonstrates an amazing amount of work that is slow, careful, and completely revolutionary. Urton takes on the monstrous task of figuring out how khipus work and then “reads” them for historical and cultural information about the Inka Empire. It is like figuring out hieroglyphics without a Rosetta Stone. Urton contends that it is because of our conception of history that we take khipus not to be historical objects. He then turns this around by using the khipus to get us to think again about what “our” notion of history is, thus using the khipus as one kind of history to help articulate a much broader sense of historiographical possibility. A pure triumph!”


In recognition of Professor Urton’s outstanding scholarship, Bard Graduate Center will host a symposium on the topic of the book in the spring of 2019. Learn more about the symposium here.

Gary Urton is the Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University. He is the author of numerous books and edited volumes on Andean/Quechua cultures and Inka civilization, including Signs of the Inka Khipu: Binary Coding in the Andean Knotted-String Records. Professor Urton is a recipient of both MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships.