UNT Research, Volume 16, 2006 Page: 39
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gone, the more likely it will disappear for-
ever into private collections or suffer
damage beyond repair, she says.
"The problem is, if the works are
gone, the memory is gone," she says. "And
they will have never existed."
Dust AND AR
Born in Scotland and of Iraqi descent,
Shabout lived in Baghdad from age 6 until
her graduation from the Baghdad High
School for Girls. In 1980, she moved to
the United States to pursue a college
education, earning degrees in art and archi-
tecture from the University of Texas at
Shabout chased down rumors about
the art from Iraqi artists, art dealers and
gallery owners, learning whose son might
have looted the museum and which gallery
might have missing artwork.
She used each nugget of information
that she collected to move on to the next
She attended several meetings at the
United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.
That August, a truck bomb exploded there,
killing 17 people. She knew people who
had been killed in the blast.
"When you're there, you're careful, but
you can't be frightened, or you will be para-
lyzed," she says.
Academic Research Institute in Iraq allowed
her to travel to Jordan this summer to
continue her efforts to document the miss-
Shabout has collected about 500
images of the missing pieces.
RUMORS AND VICTORIES
She says she has learned not to
become overly optimistic. Before she left
for Jordan this summer, she was excited
about rumors of a possible museum
archive. But she found the information
there to be spotty, requiring verification
and cross-referencing with her current
- ,::ork cannot be proven missing from the museum without proper
ocumentation. And the longer the work is gone, the more likely it will disappear
ever into private collections or suffer damage beyond repair.
She returned to Baghdad for the first
time in June 2003. Initially, she barely rec-
ognized the city, noticing the new highways
and monuments added in the I980s. Then,
she saw familiar buildings, disguised by the
pall of age and war.
"When I left Baghdad in 1980 it
looked like a bright, clean city, but on this
trip it looked so rundown and dirty and
old," she says. "It was really sad."
Walking on five inches of dust -
which was still swirling through the air
after the bombings and covered roads, side-
walks and even building interiors -
Shabout met artists outside their studios.
The buildings, lacking electricity and air
conditioning, were often too hot to enter.
About 1,300 of the 8,000 originals
missing from the modern art museum
have been retrieved and are being stored,
Shabout says. She knows that retrieving all
of the pieces would be next to impossible.
Many are already in private collections, and
buying them back would be too expensive.
Instead, she searches for existing pho-
tographs of the art and intends to create a
catalog with images, titles, artist names,
dates and dimensions of any piece owned
by the modern art museum. In this way, she
says, the memory will live on.
Only recently did Shabout earn a
grant - her first on this project. The
$10,000 grant from the American
m of Modern Art in
Baghdad have been retrieved and are being store- Nada Shabout a still working to
Once, she obtained a video CD of
the museum, but the recording provided
few details, she says. She could see only
a few of the works and no artist names
But she has seen victories, like the
wooden statue called Motherhood by artist
Jaward Salim. The work, which she com-
pares to Picasso in the value of its impor-
tance for Iraqi art, was purchased off the
black market in late 2003 for $100 or so.
The statue is now at a Baghdad gallery
until it can be returned to the museum.
Her search to document missing art is
about more than the art itself, she says.
"It's about class, social systems and
political systems. This is history - a docu-
ment of what was created then," she says.
"It will give us a way of studying successive
Iraqi cultures, parts of history that need to
be documented. They complete the overall
picture of the history of humanity." I
UNT RESEARCH 200oo6 39
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University of North Texas. UNT Research, Volume 16, 2006, periodical, 2006; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc29777/m1/39/: accessed September 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting University Relations, Communications & Marketing department for UNT.