Mary Gabriel, author of Ninth Street Women, has been named the recipient of the 2022 NYU/Axinn Foundation Prize.

The Prize Recognizes a Writer of Artistic Literary Narrative Nonfiction

Mary Gabriel, author of Ninth Street Women, has been named the recipient of the 2022 NYU/Axinn Foundation Prize. The honor aims to celebrate and support distinguished work in artistic literary narrative nonfiction by a writer whose career is in full vibrancy. 

The prize includes a cash award of $100,000. The purpose of the award is to encourage the ongoing work of a writer of literary narrative nonfiction whose books invite a wide readership to explore issues and subjects not otherwise adequately addressed, and thereby make a significant impact on the wider culture.

“This award fosters an excellent and influential writer’s continuing contributions to literature and culture,” says Lynne Kiorpes, dean of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science (GSAS), which administers the award. “By encouraging ongoing work by writers of important literary narrative nonfiction, the NYU/Axinn Foundation Prize aims to cultivate and promote books marked by vision, distinctive language, depth of research and discernment about topics not otherwise adequately addressed, books that also deepen our understanding of the human condition and are of broad interest and appeal.”

Isabel Wilkerson, author of the award-winning The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent, was the recipient of the inaugural NYU/Axinn Foundation Prize, which was given in 2020.

Gabriel is the author of Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution, published in 2011. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is also the author of Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored and The Art of Acquiring: A Portrait of Etta and Claribel Cone.

Mary Gabriel

Author Mary Gabriel (photo credit: Mike Habermann)

Ninth Street Women, Gabriel’s most recent book, published in 2018, is a five-part biography of postwar abstract expressionists Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler. The work “captures a New York art world on the cusp—or the precipice—of extraordinary celebrity and extravagant prices,” the New York Times wrote in its review, noting the work is “as complicated and capacious as the lives it depicts.” Gabriel has created “an affectionate tribute to the underappreciated women of America’s avant-garde,” as reviewed by Publishers Weekly. The Wall Street Journal noted: “It’s no mean feat to breathe life into five very different and very brave women, none of whom gave a whit about conventional mores.”

The NYU/Axinn Foundation Prize, given every other year, honors an American writer of artistic literary narrative nonfiction whose published book or books are of exceptional quality and societal import and who is expected to produce additional highly significant work in subsequent years. The winner is selected by an independent panel of judges considering nominations from distinguished people drawn from many areas of American literary life, including from prominent scholars, writers, librarians, and independent booksellers whose identity is not known to the judges. This year the judges chose Gabriel “for her exceptional history of the mid-century American art world and the five women artists now increasingly central to our larger picture of those decades, its artistic styles, relationships, and fates.” 

In announcing this year’s prize winner, GSAS and the Axinn Foundation expressed their gratitude for the oversight that Philip Fisher, Felice Crowl Reid Professor of English and American Literature at Harvard University and chair of the NYU/Axinn Foundation Prize Advisory Committee, gave to the selection process. 

Mark Hamer, of the Axinn Foundation, noted in the prize’s inaugural year that “Don Axinn, a successful businessman, loved to write and read. He cared a great deal about people and writing. Although he was not a professional writer, he wrote every day and he thought his creativity had something to do with his success in business. Don had the pleasure of reading his poetry on one memorable evening at NYU. The Trustees of the Axinn Foundation felt it was fitting that the NYU/Axinn Foundation Prize, aimed at encouraging mid-career writers of extraordinary talent, be created in his name, so as to honor and support writers of literary narrative nonfiction books that make a difference.”

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