Nizan Shaked Awarded the 31st Annual Eldredge Prize for Her Book The Synthetic Proposition: Conceptualism and the Political Referent in Contemporary Art”

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has awarded the 31st annual Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art to Nizan Shaked for her book The Synthetic Proposition: Conceptualism and the Political Referent in Contemporary Art (Manchester University Press, 2017). Shaked examines the impact of civil rights, Black Power and the student, feminist and sexual-liberty movements on conceptualism and its legacies in the United States between the late 1960s and the 1990s. The jurors wrote in a joint statement, “Shaked’s book demonstrates... a broad interdisciplinary approach that is shaped by modern and post-modern philosophy, linguistic theory and social history; the author posits a rethinking of the methodologies that have been employed to engage in discussions of minimalism and conceptual art.”

The three jurors who awarded the $3,000 prize were Janet Headley, professor of art history at Loyola University Maryland; David McCarthy, professor and department chair of art history at Rhodes College; and Cherise Smith, associate professor and chair of African and African diaspora studies at the University of Texas at Austin. 

The jurors wrote: “The book provides an important bridge from practices that first emerged in the 1960s, and later were expanded toward the end of the century. From Shaked’s excellent analysis, we can see the long history of several liberationist movements—among them civil rights, Black Power, feminist and queer liberation—as they played out with some of the most consequential vanguard artists of the past half-century. Indeed, through the lens she provides, it is now evident just how much artists engaged and extended the politics of the 1960s through their language-based practices.”

Shaked is a professor of contemporary art history, museum and curatorial studies at California State University, Long Beach. She was the 2015 recipient of the Wyeth Foundation for American Art Publication Grant for her prize-winning book The Synthetic Proposition: Conceptualism and the Political Referent in Contemporary Art. She is also the author of numerous scholarly articles published in American Quarterly: The Journal of American Studies, Journal of Curatorial Studies, Historical Materialism, Third Text, Afterall and XTRA Contemporary Art Quarterly. Shaked is currently working on a new book with Bloomsbury Academic titled Museums, the Public and the Value of Art: The Political Economy of Art Collections. She received a Master of Fine Arts from Otis College of Art and Design (2000), a master’s degree in fine art, critical and curatorial studies from UCLA (2002) and a doctorate in cultural studies and museum studies from Claremont Graduate University (2008). 

In conjunction with the award, Shaked will present the annual Eldredge Prize Lecture Thursday, Oct. 3; details will be available online at

The Eldredge Prize, named in honor of the museum’s former director (1982–1988), is sponsored by the American Art Forum, a patrons’ support organization. This annual award, initiated in 1989, recognizes originality and thoroughness of research, excellence of writing and clarity of method. Single-author, book-length publications in the field of American art history appearing within the previous three calendar years are eligible. Dec. 1 is the deadline for 2020 nominations.

Recent Eldredge Prize recipients include Susan Rather (2018) for her book The American School: Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era, Jennifer L. Roberts (2017) for her book Transporting Visions: The Movement of Images in Early America and Michael Lobel (2016) for his book John Sloan: Drawing on Illustration. A complete list of past winners is available online at

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the flagship museum in the United States for American art and craft. It is home to one of the most significant and inclusive collections of American art in the world. The museum’s main building, located at Eighth and G streets N.W., is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The museum’s Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Check online for current hours and admission information. Admission is free. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website:

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This is a head shot of Nizan Shaked
Press - Eldredge prize winner 2019 Nizan Shaked

Photo by Nicholas Gaby