Envisioning the Middle East: The Lost History of America’s Artistic Exchanges, 1952–1979 is a revisionist account of the work of seven American artists who visited North Africa and the Middle East in the early decades of the Cold War, including Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler, and Andy Warhol. Smith’s book will challenge hermetic, nationalist understandings of “American art” by recentering the transcultural dynamics of political expansionism and cultural encounter. Drawing on an extensive archive of unpublished documents, Envisioning the Middle East uncovers a series of lost histories––histories of soft power and neo-imperialism, discovery, and appropriation––that continue to shape the contemporary art world today.

Sarah-Neel Smith’s work focuses on modernisms in a global and comparative perspective, with a particular focus on artistic exchanges between the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and the United States. A graduate of Smith College, she holds a PhD in Art History from UCLA and teaches in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her writing has appeared in Art Journal, ARTMargins, Third Text, Bidoun, and frieze. Her first book, Metrics of Modernity: Art and Development in Postwar Turkey, will be published by the University of California Press in February 2022.