Debora Silverman, a professor of history and art history at UCLA, is one of 15 scholars, academics and creative writers selected to receive a 2015-16 fellowship from the New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
Each fellow receives a stipend, a private office in the center’s quarters at the library's landmark building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan and full access to the incomparable research collections and online resources available there, as well as the assistance of the library’s curatorial and reference staff.
“It will be a great pleasure to see what they discover in the New York Public Library’s invaluable collections, and how much they learn from each other,” said center director Jean Strouse of the 2015 fellows.
Silverman, who holds the University of California Presidential Chair in Modern European History, Art, and Culture, will use the fellowship to work on a book identifying the influence of imperialism in the origins of Belgian Art Nouveau and the politics of memory embodied in the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, just outside Brussels, Belgium. The ethnographic and natural history museum, originally created to showcase products and collections from the former Belgian colony of Congo, eventually came to include holdings from other parts of Africa. It closed in 2013 for renovation and is expected to reopen in 2017.
Silverman’s book is tentatively titled “Art of Darkness: Art Nouveau, 'Style Congo' and the Belgian Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, 1897-2014.”
She is the author of “Selling Culture: Bloomingdale's, Diana Vreeland, and The New Aristocracy of Taste in Reagan's America” (Pantheon, 1986); “Art Nouveau in Fin-de-Siècle France: Politics, Psychology, and Style” (University of California Press, 1989), a co-winner of the Berkshire History prize; and “Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001), which was awarded a Ralph Waldo Emerson National Prize for Best Book in the Humanities and a PEN American Center Architectural Digest Prize for "outstanding writing on the visual arts."
For more information about the Cullman Center, the fellowship and current and former fellows go to nypl.org/cws.