Artist Michael Rakowitz in front of one of his remade Assyrian reliefs

Nasher Sculpture Center Announces the 2020 Nasher Prize Graduate Symposium Open Call for Papers


Symposium to address the work of 2020 Laureate, Michael Rakowitz; University of North Texas’s Dr. Nada Shabout to moderate


DALLAS, Texas (October 28, 2019)—Nasher Sculpture Center announces an open call for participation in the 2020 Nasher Prize Graduate Symposium, which aims to expand scholarship on the field of contemporary sculpture in its many forms. Submissions should address themes related to the work of the 2020 Nasher Prize Laureate Michael Rakowitz. This year’s symposium will be moderated by Dr. Nada Shabout of University of North Texas, founding president of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art from the Arab World, Iran and Turkey.


The Nasher Prize Graduate Symposium, addresses a broad audience of art historians and museum professionals, allowing symposium participants to receive feedback from fellow presenters, the moderator, the keynote speaker, and audience members. Students selected to present papers will also have their work published in the annual symposium compendium, together with the paper delivered by the keynote speaker, yet to be announced. 


Since his career began in the late 1990s, Michael Rakowitz’s dynamic body of work has involved intensive research, resulting in an array of objects, environments, films, and publications that seek to reclaim, reposition, or refocus complicated aspects of material and cultural histories or events. He has especial interest in refugee and migrant populations, particularly from the Middle East. Often durational in nature, his projects frequently enlist the participation of collaborators or the public to create objects or events, making the work as much participatory as it is material.


Since 2003, Rakowitz’s work has considered his own heritage as an American descendent of the Iraqi Jewish diaspora with projects that include, among other efforts, research into the archeological artifacts and sites that have been destroyed or compromised due to political conflict. His ongoing project The invisible enemy should not exist, begun in 2007, seeks to recreate the thousands of artifacts that were looted or destroyed in the raiding of the National Museum of Iraq, Baghdad in 2003, as well as artifacts decimated by ISIS in 2015 during a destructive spree on cultural sites and institutions throughout Iraq. For this, Rakowitz solicits the help of communities of people to remake each of the artifacts, at their original scale, using images and information from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute database. Employing packaging from Middle Eastern food products and Arabic newspapers in combination with simple sculptural means, such as papier-mâché, the ancient objects are recreated as colorful, text- and image-laden sculptures that the artist has described as “ghosts”. 


Suggested Topics for the 2020 Nasher Prize Graduate Symposium:

–Provisional architecture within sculpture

–Archaeology and the politics of cultural heritage

–Food in social practice and community-healing

–Traditional sculptural methods in contemporary sculptural practice

–Transmissions of skill or expertise as forms of resistance to cultural erasure

- Social media and e-commerce sites as paths of research

- Artistic responses to the destruction of cultural patrimony


Complete proposals must include the following:

–Contact information, participant’s field and university affiliation, and CV

–Paper title and abstract of no more than 200 words, and 3 to 5 keywords

Proposals are due by Sunday, December 15, 2019.

Send submissions and questions to [email protected]


We hope to notify successful applicants by January 13, 2020. Registration information will follow.

With proof of need, eligible candidates may be considered for scholarship funding to offset travel costs.


About Michael Rakowitz, 2020 Nasher Prize Laureate

Michael Rakowitz was born in 1973 in Great Neck, New York; he lives and works in Chicago, Illinois and is professor of art theory and practice at Northwestern University. He studied at Purchase College, State University of New York, where he received a BFA in 1995 and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, graduating with a Master of Science in Visual Studies in 1998. His recent retrospective opened at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 2019, traveling to Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Torino and, in 2020 is scheduled to open at the Jameel Art Centre, Dubai. It was preceded by Backstroke of the West, a survey exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in 2018.


He has exhibited in venues including dOCUMENTA(13), The Museum of Modern Art, New York; MoMA/PS1, New York; Tate Modern, London; MassMOCA; Castello di Rivoli; the 10th and 14th Istanbul Biennials; the Sharjah Biennials 8 and 14 ; the Tirana Biennale; and Transmediale 05.


Rakowitz is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2018 Herb Alpert Award in Visual Arts, a 2012 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award, a 2008 Creative Capital Grant, the Sharjah Biennial Jury Award, a 2006 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Grant in Architecture and Environmental Structures, the 2003 Dena Foundations Award, and the 2002 Design 21 Grand Prix from UNESCO.


About Nada Shabout, moderator

Nada Shabout is a Professor of Art History and the Coordinator of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Initiative at the University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, U.S.A. She is the founding president of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art from the Arab World, Iran and Turkey. Shabout is the Project Advisor for the Saudi National Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. She is the author of Modern Arab Art: Formation of Arab Aesthetics, University of Florida Press, 2007; co-editor with Salwa Mikdadi of New Vision: Arab Art in the 21st Century, Thames & Hudson, 2009; and co-editor with Anneka Lenssen and Sarah Rogers of Modern Art in the Arab World: Primary Documents, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2018. 


Shabout was the curator of Sajjil: A Century of Modern ArtInterventions: A dialogue between the Modern and the Contemporary, 2010; co-curator of Modernism and Iraq, Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, 2009, and curator of the traveling exhibition, Dafatir: Contemporary Iraqi Book Art, 2005-2009. Her awards include: Writers Grant, Andy Warhol Foundation 2018; The Presidential Excellency Award, UNT 2018; The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq fellow 2006, 2007; MIT visiting Assistant Professor, spring 2008, and Fulbright Senior Scholar Program, 2008 Lecture/Research fellowship to Jordan.


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About the Nasher Sculpture Center

Located in the heart of the Dallas Arts District and designed by architect Renzo Piano, the Nasher Sculpture Center is home to the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary sculpture in the world, featuring more than 300 masterpieces by Calder, de Kooning, di Suvero, Giacometti, Gormley, Hepworth, Kelly, Matisse, Miró, Moore, Picasso, Rodin, Serra, and Shapiro, among others. On view in the light-filled galleries and amid the garden grounds is a rotating selection of works from the Collection, as well as important exhibitions of modern and contemporary sculpture, including Sightings, a series of small-scale exhibitions and site-specific installations that explore new work by established and emerging artists. In addition to the indoor and outdoor gallery spaces, the Center contains an auditorium, education and research facilities, a cafe, and a store. For more information, visit



Media Contact:

Lucia Simek
Manager of Communications and International Programs

Nasher Sculpture Center

[email protected]

+1 214 242 5177

Nasher Sculpture Center
2001 Flora Street
Dallas, Texas 75201
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