UNT professor's work on modern Arab art earns her spot as one of eight influential female art historians

UNT art history professor Nada Shabout, known for her research in modern Arab ar
UNT art history professor Nada Shabout, known for her research in modern Arab art, was named one of "Eight Influential Female Art Historians You Should Know" by artsy.com. Photo by Ahna Hubnik.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - 13:00

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- When Nada Shabout was studying modern Arab art as a graduate student, she didn’t have all of the resources she needed.

She has made it her mission to promote that field. Now the University of North Texas art history professor is co-editing a book on the subject for the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. And, artsy.net named her as one of “Eight Influential Female Art Historians You Should Know”, citing her for “increasing the visibility of art from communities that often go overlooked in the contemporary art world.”

“It’s been a great ride,” said Shabout, who also is coordinator of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute at UNT. “To be recognized with art historians who’ve done great work is an honor.”

She is co-editing, along with Anneka Lenssen and Sarah Rogers, the book Modern Art in the Arab World: Primary Documents that will be published in 2017 by MoMA, one of the most prestigious museums in the world. The book will compile documents – such as manifestos, letters, journal entries and articles – by artists and critics from the modern Arab world from 1882 to 1987. The book also will include artwork and essays.

She hopes the book will be used by students studying the era and region.

“To provide these texts allows them to venture to deeper research,” she said.

The book will be especially helpful since it is tough to go into some countries, such as Iraq. And many artworks were destroyed in 2003 during the Iraq War.

She already has begun 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, that promotes discussion between scholars and organizations of the field.

Shabout initially and briefly worked as an architect when she decided to change careers and study her interest in 20th century art.

Shabout, who lived in the Middle East for 13 years, said that period was a transformative age and she wanted to learn more about these artists whose work she grew up seeing.

“They were very important in constructing a modern culture,” she said. “I was interested in the work – why, how, etc.” 

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