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A Black Woman Turned Her Dissertation Into An Art Exhibit. It’s Opening In Paris.

By Victoria M. Walker

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A Black woman who turned her doctoral dissertation into an exhibit will soon have her work displayed at the historic Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Denise Murrell did her dissertation on the portrayal of Black women in modern art, according to a report from the Gaston Gazette. The exhibition is called “Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today,” which is currently on display at Columbia University.

“In terms of art history itself, I wanted to see a deeper level of exploration of these figures and have that analysis be part of art history,” Murrell told the Gaston Gazette. “I wanted to broaden the field of art history to include some of these overlooked subjects and to present these exhibitions that could be of interest to a broader and more diverse audience.”

The exhibit includes African-American models, including some who lived in Paris, in the 19th century and their influence on painters of that era.

Growing up, Murrell visited art exhibits in New York City with her father. Her education and career spanned from UNC-Chapel Hill, Harvard Business School, Morgan Stanley, and Citibank before pursuing a degree in art history.

“As I got more engaged in it and became more aware of the careers around art — who actually puts together these exhibitions, and the whole gallery scene? — I just became more and more interested to the point that I wanted to study the subject formally,” said Murrell.

Murrell will be a visiting scholar at the d’Orsay and called the exhibit a “huge contribution to public awareness.”

The exhibit will open March 26 and will remain until July.

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Victoria M. Walker

Victoria M. Walker is an award-winning multimedia journalist and full-time lecturer in the Department of Media, Journalism, and Film at her alma mater, Howard University. She was previously the breaking news and viral content video editor at The Washington Post.

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