Congratulations to Thomas Crow, winner of the AAANZ Best Book Prize 2018 for No Idols: The Missing Theology of Art. Power Publications is thrilled to celebrate the announcement of our inaugural Power Polemic, Thomas Crow’s No Idols: the Missing Theology of Art, as winner of the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand’s ‘Best Book’ prize.


There were nine books in contention this year for the annual AAANZ book prize. We were pleased to see the entries ranged from monographs on single artists, to books analysing types of art practices, as well as publications identifying important recurrent themes in art. Most entries this year were on modern and contemporary art. The winner from this strong field is Thomas Crow’s No Idols: The missing Theology of Art. Crow, we felt, broke new ground in his quest for a theology of art that pushed against the prevailing secularism of modernity. In tracking the survival of a religious impulse in art within the context of modernity, that is within art that declares its modernism, he asks to think beyond current paradigms that reduce its secularism to the instrumentalism of positivism or avowedly ideologically-driven ‘isms’. The book is also valuable as it shows what a useful world art history might look like, as its argument is made across regions – three continents – and periods.  We particularly liked the way argument proceeded via vivid and important case studies that closely read and examine artworks and with strong enough examples which he believes should force the need to rethink the usual assumption that the western Christian tradition has little pertinence for modern and contemporary art. His examples range from artworks by Chardin through to Turrell, and include McCahon. McCahon’s pivotal role in Crow’s argument makes this a happy coincidence for the Australian and New Zealand art prize.
—Ian McLean, Hugh Ramsay Chair of Australian Art, University of Melbourne; and Susan Best, Professor of Art Theory and Associate Dean (Research and Postgraduate), Queensland College of Art, Griffith University.


Thomas Crow is the Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. He has written influential studies of eighteenth-century French painting and the later twentieth century, as well as art history as a discipline.

“I’m immensely gratified by this recognition from the committee and my colleagues in Australia and New Zealand, among whom I’ve found so many friends. No Idols would not have existed had not Mark Ledbury, from his position at the Power, urged me to contribute a manuscript under the rubric of Power Polemics. But I had to ask myself, what sort of polemical intervention could I undertake that hadn’t already been rehearsed to the point of irrelevant impasse? Theology, it struck me, was a topic that no one would see coming, but might have the greatest power to unsettle. It’s heartening to me to know that the committee saw in it a bridge to the Antipodes from Europe and North America. I belong to the very small band in the Northern Hemisphere of Colin McCahon devotees, and saw my theme as the opportunity to place McCahon at a new center, at the heart of the book supported by Mark Rothko on one side and Robert Smithson on the other – and by extension at the heart of a re-conceived map of crucial postwar art. That map was already being ably drawn by others – Rex Butler and Laurence Simmons; Wyston Curnow and Robert Leonard – and I stand in the greatest debt to them. The best hope I had for the book was that it be a catalyst for something new, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the help and encouragement embodied in this award.”
—Thomas Crow, author


“I’m delighted that No Idols has been recognised for its brilliance and originality, and feel privileged that Thomas Crow, a field-leading and field-changing art historian, chose to publish his unique and challenging book with us. I am also proud of the vision and design that was the brainchild of Formist design studio and Marni Williams, our exceptional managing editor at Power Publications, for the book and the Power Polemics series. Our aim in these Polemics is to put great ideas about art and culture in punchy, pleasing and pocketable form, and thus to fulfill the Power Institute’s long-standing mission to make art and ideas matter in Australia and beyond.”
—Professor Mark Ledbury, Director, Power Institute


RRP $30.00 AUD
ISBN 978-0-909952-99-0
50 colour images
200 x 125 mm


Marni Williams
Publications Manager
The University of Sydney
T +61 2 9351 7324


You can read more about Thomas Crow’s No Idols in this review in Artforum, and copies are available to purchase from our online store. The book is distributed in Australia via NewSouth Books, in the United States by University of Washington Press, and in Europe by Turnaround Books.