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The Mellon Graduate Fellowship in Object-Centered Curatorial Research


Administered by a partnership among the Art History Department, the Michael C. Carlos Museum and the High Museum of Art, this fellowship brings together students, faculty, curators, and conservators. Each year, three art history graduate students are awarded fellowships to work directly with objects selected in consultation with faculty and curatorial advisors, and to consider questions of authorship, manufacture, presentation, and preservation. This fellowship is primarily intended for graduate students who have completed at least their first year of studies in the Art History department.

Fellows focus on specific objects in the museums’ collections, ideally related to their doctoral research. They work with faculty, curatorial, and conservation advisors to develop questions and define the research scope. Fellows engage in independent research, which can include travel to relevant collections, institutions, or libraries in the U.S. or abroad, to examine relevant objects, consult researchers, and review documents. The faculty advisor, curator, or appropriate field expert is involved in the planning and accompanies the fellow on these research trips. Fellows also undertake a directed reading course with their faculty advisor and enroll in either Technical Art History or Issues in the Conservation of Art and Cultural Property.

Fellows’ research findings are presented at the annual Art History Graduate Symposium, a public museum event or a professional conference, and may be published on the High Museum’s website.

2022 Fellow

Margaret Nagawa

Margaret Nagawa is a Ph.D. student in contemporary African art at Emory University. She earned her M.A. degree in Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London, England, focusing on international exhibitions and artist collectives. Prior to graduate studies, Nagawa studied painting and sculpture at the Margaret Trowell School of Fine Arts, Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, where she earned a first-class honors degree in Fine Arts. She subsequently led the Uganda Artists Association for two years and painted and curated exhibitions in Uganda and Ethiopia. In the Fall of 2021, Nagawa completed her qualifying paper titled “A Monument’s Many Lives: Constructing Meanings in Theo Eshetu’s The Return of the Axum Obelisk (2009).”

As a 2022 Mellon Fellow in Object-Centered Curatorial Research, Nagawa will focus on a sketchbook in the High Museum of Art’s collection by the Senegalese-French artist Iba N’Diaye (1928-2008). An influential professor at the École de Dakar following Senegal’s independence in 1960, N’Diaye encouraged familiarity with art from other parts of Africa and Europe, as well as fluency in techniques employed to make that art. In 1993, N’Diaye completed sixty-five drawings and written notes in the sketchbook’s one-hundred pages during his visit to the Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C. His diverse sources include Titian, the Venetian Renaissance painter, Willem de Kooning, the Dutch-American abstract expressionist, and a nineteenth-century wood sculpture attributed to the Yombe area of the Kongo culture, an area located in the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo. Nagawa will undertake visual and technical analyses of the sketchbook to examine N’Diaye’s cross-cultural artistic references and the materials and techniques he employed in compiling the book. Throughout this project, Nagawa will explore what this sketchbook tells us about N’Diaye’s work at the intersection of African, European, and North American art in the twentieth century.

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