The Quay Brothers

2009 - Animation

The 6th annual Coolidge Award allowed our audiences to double their pleasure!

With Animation as the selected category for this year’s award, the planning committee was unanimous in the vote to choose our recipient. Without hesitation, the Quay Brothers, masters of exquisitely subjective puppet animation films, were the clear favorites, exemplifying the spirit of the Award – work that is consistently challenging and original.

About the Quay Brothers


The Quay Brothers, who are identical twins, were born in Pennsylvania in 1947. They studied illustration in Philadelphia before going to the Royal College of Art in London. There they began to make animated shorts in the 1970s. They have lived and worked there ever since. Clearly influenced by Central and Eastern European imagery, illustration and animation, the brothers display a passion for at times exquisite detail, a super sensitivity and command of color and texture, and an uncanny rather signature use of focus and camera movement. These traits make their work unique and instantly recognizable.

Their film Street of Crocodiles was recently recognized by auteur filmmaker Terry Gilliam (Monty Python, Brazil, etc.) as one of the greatest animated films of all time. The Quays are masters of minaturization. Their tiny sets suggest long repressed dreamlike vistas of childhood landscapes of wonder and horror. They made their first live action feature length film in 1994, Institute Benjamenta. In 2005, they premiered their second feature, The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes.

The Brothers Quay have also designed for theatre and opera. In 1998, they won a Tony nomination on Broadway for Ionesco's The Chairs. In 2000, they made In Abstentia, an award-winning collaboration with avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. They also worked on two dance films, The Sandman and Duet. Working with director Julie Taymor, the twins created the dream/nightmare sequence for Frida, the biopic of artist Frida Kahlo.

The Quays are not only recognized for their use of miniatures, but for puppets and technology-related characterizations as well. Though not always dark, their body of work has a perceptible edge to it. This edginess can be visually embracing. There is an inner beauty and visceral truth layered in their work. They are artistic masters of visually portraying an imaginary constantly changing  sculptural universe.

The 2009 Coolidge Award


The Brothers Quay arrived in Brookline on May 5th to participate in Coolidge Award festivities, which included:

  • A welcome reception in celebration of the Quays' exhibition (Dormitorium) of puppet decors miniature film sets, held at the Fourth Wall Project Gallery.

  • Panel discussions of their work.

  • Conversation with colleagues such as art critic and academic, Thyrza Nichols Goodeve, literature professor David Spolum, and long-time collaborator, editor and sound designer, Larry Sider.

  • The Coolidge Award Ceremony, hosted by Goodeve.