For the first time ever, the Holberg Prize—one of the world’s biggest awards for contributions to the humanities, social sciences, law, theology, and the arts—has gone to an art historian. Its 2020 winner is Griselda Pollock, who is best known for her writings on the place of women artists in society over the centuries. Through the award, which is given out by the Norwegian government, Pollock will win 6 million kroner, or about $646,000—a sum larger, even, than the one that comes with the MacArthur foundation’s “genius” fellowship.
The win is a major one for Pollock, as it means that she now joins a coterie of celebrated intellectuals who have won the award since its founding in 2004, including Fredric Jameson, Jürgen Habermas, and Bruno Latour, who will co-curate the 2020 Taipei Biennial.
Pollock is one of the most widely read feminist art historians, alongside scholars like Linda Nochlin and Svetlana Alpers, and was integral in helping develop that part of the discipline. Her 1988 book, Vision and Difference: Feminism, Femininity, and Histories of Art, a study of women’s role in shaping modern art as it is known today, is considered essential for the way it considered gender alongside class and larger economic factors.
Since writing that book, Pollock has continued to focus on female artists, writing at length on Charlotte Salomon, Bracha L. Ettinger, Georgia O’Keeffe, and others. Currently a professor in the art history department of the University of Leeds in England, Pollock has also written on film, co-editing the book series “Concentrationary Memories,” which focuses on the Holocaust and trauma, with Max Silvermann.
Hazel Genn, the chair of the committee that juried the Holberg Prize, said in a statement, “Griselda Pollock has always upheld the highest level of scholarship while challenging received wisdom and institutional hierarchies of thought and value. For this she has been a beacon for generations of art and cultural historians.”