Brendan Gill Prize

Established in 1987 in honor of Brendan Gill, renowned New Yorker theater and architecture critic and long-time MAS Board Member

The Brendan Gill Prize is given each year to the creator of a specific work—a book, essay, musical composition, play, painting, sculpture, architectural design, film, or choreographic piece—that best captures the spirit and energy of New York City.

The prize was established in 1987 in honor of Brendan Gill by friend and fellow MAS board member Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis along with board members Helen Tucker and Margot Wellington.

The winner of the 2020 Brendan Gill Prize is composer Julia Wolfe for her magnificent oratorio, Fire in my mouth, a hauntingly beautiful retelling of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

The 2020 Brendan Gill Prize jury also elected to honor four writers—all finalists for the Gill Prize—with special designation:

  • Contested City: Art & Public History as Mediation at New York’s Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, by Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani
  • Brooklyn: The Once and Future City, by Thomas J. Campanella
  • CODEX New York; Typologies of the City, by photographer Stanley Greenberg
  • Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal, by Eric K. Washington

The postponed 2020 Brendan Gill Prize Ceremony was held on September 14, 2021, at the newly-restored Concert Grove Pavilion in Prospect Park.

Brendan Gill, Arthur Ross, and Kent Barwick at party
Left to right: Brendan Gill, Arthur Ross, and Kent Barwick (1988)

2020 Brendan Gill Prize Jury

John Haworth (Brendan Gill Prize Jury Chair), Senior Executive Emeritus, National Museum of the American Indian/NY, Smithsonian Institution
Randall Bourscheidt, Director, Archive of New York City Cultural Policy
Patricia Cruz, Artistic Director and CEO, Harlem Stage
Gail Gregg, Artist and Journalist
Cassim Shepard, Urbanist, Filmmaker, and Author
Laurie Beckelman, Not-for-profit Consultant
Helen Tucker, MAS Director Emerita



Julia Wolfe, Fire in my mouth

Special Recognition Honoree: Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, Contested City: Art & Public History as Mediation at New York’s Seward Park Urban Renewal Area

Special Recognition Honoree: Thomas J. Campanella, Brooklyn: The Once and Future City

Special Recognition Honoree: Stanley Greenberg, CODEX New York; Typologies of the City

Special Recognition Honoree: Eric K. Washington, Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal


Stephen Maing, Crime + Punishment


Melissa Rachleff, Inventing Downtown: Artist–Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965

Julia Wertz, Tenements, Towers, & Trash: An Unconventional Ilustrated History of New York


Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas

Matthew “Levee” Chavez, Subway Therapy


Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alex Lacamoire, Thomas Kail, and Andy Blankenbuehler, Hamilton: An American Musical

Frederick Wiseman, Inside Jackson Heights


Kara Walker, A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby; an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant


Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times articles on Penn Station


Louis Kahn (posthumously), Four Freedoms Park


John Morse, Curbside Haiku


Michael Van Valkenburgh, Brooklyn Bridge Park


Mike and Doug Starn, See it change, see it split


Sufjan Stevens, The BQE


Sarah Jones, Bridge & Tunnel


Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The Gates, Central Park


Yoshio Taniguchi, The new Museum of Modern Art


Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Random Family

Warren Lehrer and Judith Sloan, Crossing the BLVD: Strangers, Neighbors, Aliens in a New America


John Bennett, Gustavo Bonevardi, Richard Nash Gould, Julian LaVerdiere, Paul Marantz, and Paul Myoda, Tribute in Light


Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Associate, American Folks Art Museum

Alice Rose George, Gilles Peress, Michael Shulan, and Charles Traub, Here is New York exhibit


Christopher Wheeldon, Mercurial Manoeuvres

Honorable Mention: MTA Arts for Transit, For Want of a Nail


Mauren Hackett, Herald and Greeley Square Parks

Honorable Mention: Allison Prete, Lavender Lake: Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal

Honorable Mention: John Kuo Wie Then, New York Before Chinatown 


Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham

Honorable Mention: Phillip Lopate, Writing New York: A Literary Anthology


Frederick Fisher, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center

Honorable Mention: Susan Tunick and Peter Mauss, Terra Cotta Skyline

Honorable Mention: Milo Mottola, Riverbank State Park Carousel


George C. Wolfe and Savion Glover, Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk


Hugh Hardy, New York Victory Theatre


Louis Malle and André Gregory, Vanya on 42nd Street


Ang Lee, The Wedding Banquet


Joseph Mitchell, Up in the Old Hotel


John Yau and Bill Barrette, Big City Primer: Reading New York at the End of the Twentieth Century


David Hammons, High Falutin’


Gran Fury, Kissing Doesn’t Kill; Greed and Indifference Do


Kevin Roche, Central Park Zoo


Rudolph Burckhardt, film series at the Museum of Modern Art

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Establishing the Brendan Gill Prize

MAS establishes the annual Brendan Gill Prize, which honors the creator of a specific work of art produced in the previous year that best captures the spirit and energy of New York City. The inaugural prize is given to Rudolph Burckhardt for a film series at MoMA.

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