Dartmouth Professor Is Finalist for Renowned Book Award


Dartmouth’s Mary Coffey, associate professor of art history, is a finalist for the 2013 Charles Rufus Morey Book Award, which honors a distinguished art history book.

Mary Coffey is a finalist for the 2013 Charles Rufus Morey Book Award, which will be announced in January. (Photo courtesy of Mary Coffey)

Coffey, nominated for How a Revolutionary Art Became Official Culture: Murals, Museums, and the Mexican State, is one of four finalists for the award, which will be announced in January.

Coffey says she hadn’t expected the book to garner the attention it has received.

“I am surprised and extremely pleased,” says Coffey. “It is very rewarding to be recognized within the profession.”

Adrian Randolph, associate dean of the faculty for the arts and humanities, says the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award is one of the most prestigious in the field.

“For a book to be nominated for the College Art Association’s Charles Rufus Morey Book Award is a mark of true distinction,” says Randolph. “It is one of the highest honors bestowed upon scholarship in the history of art. Mary Coffey’s How a Revolutionary Art Became Official Culture richly deserves this recognition.”

The award, which dates back to 1953, is presented by the College Art Association (CAA), and is named for one of the CAA’s founding members.


The book, which took Coffey 10 years to research and write, focuses on three prominent museums in Mexico City and the role they have played in institutionalizing mural art since the Mexican Revolution. Coffey contends that this art form was initially conceived of as a radical political movement, but is now seen as a kind of nationalist propaganda for the Mexican state.

“The book reframes the tradition of Mexican muralism, offering deep analyses of the institutional framework that gave rise to the work of Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and others, especially within museums. It is groundbreaking, thorough, and politically charged,” says Randolph, the Leon E. Williams Professor of Art History.

Dartmouth is home to Orozco’s famous mural series The Epic of American Civilization. Orozco crafted the work during his two years on campus as an artist-in-residence.

In 2010, Coffey was awarded the Karen E. Wetterhahn Memorial Award for Distinguished Creative or Scholarly Achievement in recognition of the role of scholarship and creative work in undergraduate liberal arts education.

Keith Chapman