As we go to press, the staff of The New Criterion is busy preparing for our second benefit art auction in New York. Our first auction two years ago, organized on the occasion of our twenty-fifth anniversary, was such a rousing success that we determined then and there to embark on another. By the time you read this, we’ll know whether hosting a benefit art auction in the middle of the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression is a prudent undertaking.

Regardless of how well the auction itself fares, there is one innovation this year that is certain to be a success and that we’d like to announce to and share with our readers: The New Criterion Award for service to the cause of art and culture. The award itself is a handsome patinated steel and etched glass sculpture designed for us by the artist Sally Pettus. Some nine inches tall, the modified pyramid is an elegant neo-modernist artifact that is deeply consonant with the aesthetic commitments of The New Criterion. We are delighted to acknowledge here our deep gratitude to Sally for her labors on our behalf.

This year we are proud to be able to honor three individuals. The first is the painter William Bailey, whose work we have often written about in these pages. Born in 1930, Mr. Bailey began painting when Abstract Expressionism was at high tide. His signature species of heightened realism sounded a distinctive and independent note at a moment when the art world was smitten with non-objective art. Mr. Bailey’s work is greatly admired and occupies a spot in many major collections, and serves as a bastion of integrity and technical prowess in an art world notably lacking in both.

The second recipient of this year’s New Criterion Award is the late André Emmerich, who died last year at 82. For nearly forty-five years, from 1954 to 1998, the German-born Mr. Emmerich presided over one of the most vital art galleries in New York. Not only was he instrumental in bringing important Color Field painters like Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, and Kenneth Noland to the public’s attention, but he provided a welcome home for many other distinguished artists, including David Hockney, Sam Francis, Anthony Caro, and William Bailey. But Mr. Emmerich was more than an innovative and successful art dealer. He was also a powerful and civilizing influence on the culture of the New York art world. We are delighted that Mr. Emmerich’s widow, Susanne, agreed to accept the award in his name.

The life of high culture is a many-sided affair that requires not only artists and dealers but also patrons with a commitment to supporting art and the appurtenances of culture. The third recipient of The New Criterion Award this year is Frank Martucci, who for some two decades helped to support work on a new catalogue raisonné of the work of George Inness, one of the very greatest nineteenth-century American artists. This impressive two-volume work, written and edited by the art scholar Michael Quick, was published last year to well-deserved acclaim. It is a monument not only to Mr. Quick’s discernment and diligence but also to Frank Martucci’s commitment to enhance the public’s acquaintance with an unfairly neglected American master.

We are as grateful as we are delighted to be able to honor Messrs. Bailey, Emmerich, and Martucci for their important contributions to the life of our culture. An honor is a two-sided mirror, reflecting on both the honoree and the enterprise bestowing the honor. The achievements of these individuals require no ratification by us: they are already widely recognized by the world at large. It is all the more reason that The New Criterion—which seeks, in Matthew Arnold’s famous phrase, to celebrate the best that has been thought and said in the world—is both proud and humbled to have inaugurated this award with the collaboration of such a distinguished group. They honor us in accepting our homage.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 27 Number 3, on page 2
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