Founded in 1982 by then British Museum curator Mark Jones and ANS Saltus Medal awardee Ron Sutton among others, the British Art Medal Society (BAMS) has for nearly four decades been one of the strongest and most highly regarded proponents of the art medal. Since the demise of the US-based Society of Medallists in 1995 after a 65-year run, BAMS is currently the only existing Society to commission art medals, which are made available to its membership, on a regular and on-going basis. The model for this type of art medal Society, in fact, stretches back to the 19th century, when the Société des amis de la médaille française (1899–1920) was founded in Paris by art critic Roger Marx, a tirelessly vocal champion of the medal as a stand-alone art form. Marx’s Société subsequently inspired similar Societies around the globe, including the New York City-based Circles of Friends of the Medallion (1908–1916) and Society of Medallists (1930–1995). Since 1982, BAMS has issued nearly 250 individual medals produced by some of the finest contemporary sculptors, engravers, and medallists today, including many Saltus Award winners.
BAMS does a great deal more than issue medals, however. Its annual publication, The Medal, is a model for high quality research on and illustration of medallic art from its genesis in 15th-century Italy to the present day, while its Student Medal Project, New Medallist Scheme, and Marsh Award for the Encouragement of Medallic Art, have continued to encourage artists and others from around the world to engage with this rather unique art form.
Since 2009, BAMS has also conferred on an annual basis its highest honor, the President’s Medal, to individuals and organizations that have demonstrated a longstanding commitment to the study of historical medals and/or the production of contemporary medals. Previous recipients include the British Museum, Saltus Medal awardee Bogomil Nikolov, ANS benefactor Stephen K. Scher, and The Simmons Gallery, which over the years has helped the ANS acquire a full set of BAMS medals. The 2020 President’s Medal has been awarded to the ANS. The citation reads:
The Society has been the foremost supporter of the study of medals in America since its formation in 1858. Its activities embrace many aspects of numismatics but one of its outstanding promotions has been the presentation of the J Sanford Saltus Award for distinguished achievement in the field of the art of the medal, created in 1913. This was initially awarded to American based artists but, in 1983, was extended to include artists from other countries. Since then it has honoured some of the most outstanding practitioners of the art of the medal in many countries, thus increasing the attention and prestige of this art form. Alongside its extensive educational and profile-raising activities, ranging from regular seminars, lectures and podcasts alongside publications and exhibitions, the Society makes regular purchases of BAMS medals to enhance its collections and recently purchased the significant archives of the Medallic Art Company to preserve them for posterity.
We are truly honored to receive the President’s Medal. Although we were not able to attend the award ceremony held in London on October 11, 2020, because of the ongoing pandemic, we were able to attend virtually, where Executive Director Gilles Bransbourg offered a few remarks of gratitude. In addition, we recorded a short video to express our deep appreciation for this award, which can viewed here.