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Book on Gertrude Stein’s art collecting family wins Frick prize

Editors and contributors share $25,000 biennial award, this year backed by the Broad Foundation

A book that focuses on the patronage of the novelist Gertrude Stein, her brothers Leo and Michael, and Michael’s wife Sarah, who collected work by artists including Juan Gris, Jacques Lipchitz and André Masson, has been awarded a $25,000 prize by the Center for the History of Collecting at the Frick Collection in New York.

The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-garde is the catalogue to an exhibition of the same name, published by Yale University Press in association with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where the show opened in 2011 before touring to the Grand Palais, Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The biennial award, supported this year by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, will be split between the book’s editors, Janet Bishop, Cécile Debray and Rebecca Rabinow, and its ten contributors.

The Steins Collect was sel ected from a pool of publications issued between 2004 and 2014, each of which was nominated by a scholar. Jurors scored the publications according to criteria including originality of research, use of primary and archival sources, and clarity of writing, says the centre’s director, Inge Reist. The jurors were unanimous in their decision, she says, “though there were some very good runners-up”.

Reist says the prize, first awarded in 2009, was launched “to stake a claim to a category of publication that we don’t feel has been given its due”. She adds: “More than anything, we want to encourage people to see the history of collecting as a field of inquiry.”

Although the centre is based at the Frick, which is known for its Old Masters, Reist stresses that the history of collecting is important for all periods. The 2013 prize, for example, was given to Get There First, Decide Promptly: The Richard Brown Baker Collection of Postwar Art, also published by Yale University Press.

In addition to the book prize, the centre awards scholarly fellowships, conducts oral histories and hosts symposia. Its next big event is a panel on 17 November on collecting contemporary art, featuring the Los Angeles County Museum of Art director Michael Govan, the art dealer Lucy Mitchell-Innes and the collector Mickey Cartin, as well as Melissa Chiu, the director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC.