Arab American professor named among top eight female art historians

An art magazine has named a University of North Texas professor among the top eight female art historians working today. 

Nada Shabout, a UNT art history professor, has dedicated much of her academic life to studying modern Arab art. It’s this pursuit that got the attention of Artsy, an online gallery and magazine. 

Shabout is co-editing a book on modern Arab art for the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and she is coordinator of the Contemporary Muslim Cultural Studies Institute at UNT. 

Artsy.net recognized Shabout for lending more visibility to a community that is often overlooked in the art world. “It’s been a great ride,” Shabout said in a press release. 

“To be recognized with art historians who’ve done great work is an honor.” 

She is co-editing Modern Art in the Arab World: Primary Documents with Anneka Lenssen and Sarah Rogers. The Museum of Modern Art, one of the most prestigious museums in the world, will publish it in 2017. 

The book will include manifestos, letters, journal entries and articles by both artists and critics from the modern Arab world. The book also features art and essays. 

Shabout hopes students will use the book to study the era — from 1882 to 1987 — and region. “To provide these texts allows them to venture to deeper research,” she said. 

The book gives readers a glimpse of Arab art in Iraq, where a large amount of artwork was destroyed in 2003 during the Iraq War. 

Shabout is digitizing and compiling some of the documents onto the website, Modern Art Iraq Archives. She also started the organization, the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab world, Iran, and Turkey in 2007. 

The association promotes discussion between scholars and organizations of the field. The professor Shabout worked briefly as an architect, but her interest in 20th century art inspired her to change careers. 

She lived in the Middle East for 13 years, and calls the period a transformative age. 

The other historians noted by Artsy.net are contemporary art critic Lucy R. Lippard; Columbia University professor Kellie Jones; Frida Kahlo biographer Hayden Herrera; photographer Deborah Willis; feminist art historian Linda Nochlin; critic of classical Dutch art Svetlana Alpers and Taina Caragol, curator Latino Art and History at the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian. 

By Lucinda Breeding

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