Pitt’s Terry Smith Named Inaugural Recipient of Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Book Prize

Issue Date: 
September 21, 2009
Terry SmithTerry Smith

Terry Smith, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Pittsburgh, is the inaugural winner of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center Book Prize for his book Making the Modern: Industry, Art, and Design in America (University of Chicago Press, 1993).

The award, which includes a $5,000 cash prize, will be presented every three years to the author of an outstanding book published within the last 25 years on some aspect of American modernism. Making the Modern was selected from a field of 60 titles.

Smith says it is a great honor to be recognized by his peers and by an institution that has become the center for the study of modernism in the United States. “I appreciate the generosity of spirit expressed in giving the inaugural award in an American studies field to an Australian,” he said. “It exemplifies what is best about this country.”

Making the Modern is the most comprehensive study of the impact of mass production and mass consumption on American visual culture from 1910 to 1940—from factory architecture to photography, from painting to industrial design. It includes chapters on the Ford plants in Detroit, the Farm Security Administration photographs of the Depression, Life magazine, and the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.

Jurors on the book prize committee say they chose Smith’s book because it “expands awareness of … modernism, an elusive and confusing term that is most broadly defined as a phenomenon in American art and culture ongoing since the 1890s.”

Prior to joining Pitt, Smith was the Power Professor on Contemporary Art and director of the Power Institute at the University of Sydney’s Foundation for Art and Visual Culture from 1994 to 2001. He was a member of the Art and Language group in New York and a founder of the Sydney-based Union Media Services. He was a founding board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Syndey, is a current board member at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and, in 1996, was elected a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and a membre titulaire of the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art.

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center, a component of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, supports and promotes scholarship on American Modernism in art history, architectural history and design, literature, music, and photography. It also collects and houses archival materials that relate to O’Keeffe’s art and life.