Sussan Babaie

Sussan Babaie


  • Strand, Somerset House

    WC2R 0RN London

    United Kingdom

1989 …2021

Research activity per year

Personal profile


Sussan Babaie joined The Courtauld Institute of Art in 2013 to take up a newly established post teaching on the arts of Iran and Islam. Born in Iran, Sussan attended the University of Tehran’s Faculty of Fine Arts (Graphic Design) until the revolution of 1979 when she moved to the USA to study for a Master’s degree in Italian Renaissance and American Arts, followed by a PhD at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, where she focused on the arts of Islam. She has many years of experience teaching at Smith College and the University of Michigan in America, and as the Allianz Visiting Professor at the Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Ludwig Maximilian University, in Munich.  Sussan has served on the International Advisory Board of Art History.

Her exhibitions include the guest-curated Strolling in Isfahan, at the Sackler Museum of Harvard University (2010), and two exhibitions she curated with her undergraduate students at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (installation, 2002-2006), and at Smith College Museum of Art (1998). While she was a graduate student fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she co-curated and co-wrote the catalogue of the exhibition ‘Persian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’ (1989). She has consulted on Persian and Islamic arts with the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan, the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, and the Detroit Institute of Art.

Her research interests include the early modern Safavid period with topics on urbanism and empire studies, on sexuality and social habits of ‘seeing’, and on transcultural visuality and notions of exoticism. A university-trained graphic designer, she writes and lectures on the historiography of the global contemporary and its implications for the arts of Iran and the Middle East. Most recently, her research has been supported by grants from the United States National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright (for research in Egypt and Syria) and the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.

Sussan is the Head of Admissions at The Courtauld Institute of Art during the academic years 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Grants, Awards, Prizes

  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for book project “Architectural Cosmopolitanism in the Middle East: Houses of 17th-Century Aleppo and Isfahan”
2011 Spr
  • Tom and Patricia Kennedy Residential Fellowship, School of Art and Art History, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida
  • Fulbright Regional Researcher-Scholar Grant, for Egypt and Syria
  • Winner, Middle East Studies Association, Houshang Pourshariati Iranian Studies

    Book Award for Isfahan and its Palaces: Statecraft, Shi‘ism and the Architecture

    of Conviviality in Early Modern Iran (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press,


  • Getty Research Institute, Invited Visiting Scholar, Los Angeles

  • Soudavar Foundation book subvention grant (for Isfahan and its Palaces),

    Geneva, London and New York

  • Office of the Vice President for Research, book subvention grant (for Slaves of

    the Shah), University of Michigan

  • Soudavar Foundation book subvention grant (for Slaves of the Shah), Geneva,

    London and New York

  • Center for the Study of Social Transformations (for Islam/Art/America Initiative),

    University of Michigan

  • Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies grants awarded for

    programming of visiting artists and scholars, University of Michigan

  • Rackham Faculty Summer Grant and Fellowship, University of Michigan

  • Morgan Whitney Fellowship, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

  • Samuel H. Kress Travel Grant for Research in Iran

  • Morgan Whitney Fellowship, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

  • Richard Ettinghausen Fellowship, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

  • Hagop Kevorkian Fellowship, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

  • Florence Waterbury Scholarship, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

  • Graduate Award, Art History Department, The American University


  • BA History of Art Year 1: Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals
  • BA History of Art Year 2: Power and Patronage: Buildings, Books and the Courtly Arts for the House of Timur
  • MA History of Art: Persian Painting and Transcultural Visuality from the Mongols to the Safavids (14th to 17th Centuries)
  • MA History of Art: Strolling Isfahan: Masters, Merchants and Monarchs



2017    Nowruz, Feasting in Spring; 16 March - 3 April

2017    Eid al-Fitr; Breaking the fast, 25 June - 2 July

The two installations at the Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon were co-curated with Dr. Babaie's cohort of MA 2016-17: Arthur Bijl, Ricarda Brosch, Yagnaseni Datta, Clotilde Entrecanales, Joella Kiu, Yasmin Siabi, Kathryn Walker, Rosemary Williams

2010    Strolling in Isfahan, Sackler Museum, Harvard University, guest curator

2002    Treasures of Islamic Art from UMMA Collections, University of Michigan Museum of Art, with undergraduate students, November 30, 2002-June 1, 2006

1998    Islamic Art from the Permanent Collection, Smith College Museum of Art, with undergraduate students, April 14-May 30, 1998

1989    Persian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, co-curated with Marie Lukens             Swietochowski, Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 13 – December 31, 1989


PhD Students


  • Massoumeh Nahid Assemi, ‘The painted tiles at the Tekkiyeh Mu’avin ul-Mulk in Kermanshah (Iran)’
  • Natasha Morris, ‘The Masculine Image in Qajar Iran (1772 – 1925)’
  • Janet O'Brien, 'Embodying Kingship: Emergence of Persian Royal Portraiture (1739-1794)'


  • Lamia Balafrej, Le maître Kamâl al-Din Behzâd et une copie du Bustân de Sa‘di (Caire, Dâr al-Kutub « Adab Fârisi 22 »). doctorante inscrite à l’Université d’Aix-Marseille. External Examiner (Sept 2013)
  • Aida Foroutan, “The Reception of Surrealism in Iran.” University of Manchester, External Examiner (Feb 2013)
  • Seyed Mohammad Ali Emrani, “The role of gardens and tree-lined streets in the urban development of Safavid Isfahan (1590-1722); A comparative approach (Paris and Versailles in the 17th century).” Lehrstuhl für landschaftsarchitektur und öffentlicher Raum, Institut für Entwerfen Stadt und Landschaft, Technische Universität, Munich, committee member (2012)
  • Afshon Ostovar, “Radical Shi‘ism and the Modern Middle East: Nationalism, Modernity, and the Iranian Revolution.” University of Michigan, Department of History, committee member (2009)
  • Min Yong Cho, “How Land Came into the Picture: Rendering History in Fourteenth-Century Iran.” University of Michigan, Department of the History of Art, supervisor and chair of the committee (2008)
  • Diana Ng, “The Manipulation of Memory in the Public Buildings and Decorative Programs in Roman Asia Minor,” Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Michigan, committee member (2007)
  • Amy Landau, “Farangi-Sazi at Isfahan: The Court Painter Muhammad Zaman, The Armenians of New Julfa and Shah Sulayman (1666-1694),” University of Oxford, The Oriental Institute; co-advisor with Dr. Julian Raby (2007)


Recording for Manoto +; Didgah programme in Persian. Broadcasts internationally live July 2018
Available on Manoto Youtube Channel
On Islamic Art
Interviews on the Image of the Prophet Muhammad after the Charlie Hebdo murders
  • BBC Radio 4 ‘Front Row’, live, January 2015
  • BBC International (rebroadcast on NPR in the US), live, January 2015
  • BBC World TV, live, January 2015
  • Dutch Art Journal de Volkskrant, pp. 10-12, March 2015
  • Times of London, substantive research article by Dominic Kennedy, July 2015
Interviews on the arts of Islam
  • BBC Radio 4, ‘Spin the Globe’, presented by historian Michael Scott, November 2013. ‘Shah Abbas the Great and 1605’; Interviewed at the British Museum.
  • BBC Radio3, ‘The Islamic Golden age c. 750 -1258 CE’, “Architecture:Bukhara and Isfahan”. Documentary essay written and recorded in studio, February 2014. 
  • Turkish TV Interview on Persian arts and the Topkapi Palace collections, recorded on site, August 2012.
Interviews for documentaries on Iran
  • ‘The Greatest Party on Earth; Persepolis ’71’, produced by Hassan Amini, documentary filmmaker, for the Production Companies Amber Television, LAA Films and the BBC, May 2015.
  • ‘Art/Culture in the Recent History of Iran’; 12 episode documentary series produced by Shannon Niehus, for Archival Magazine, multimedia publication, February 2015. 
  • On contemporary Iranian artists, Post-graduate Grant at the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York, January 2015. 

Professional Affiliations

  • British Institute of Persian Studies
  • American Institute of Iranian Studies
  • College Art Association
  • Association of Art Historians
  • Renaissance Society of America
  • Historians of Islamic Art Association
  • Society of Architectural Historians
  • Association for the Study of Persianate Societies
  • Society for Iranian Studies

Education/Academic qualification

Safavid Palaces at Isfahan; Continuity and Change (1590-1666), New York University

… → 1994

Renaissance Art and Architecture, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

… → 1985

Italian Renaissance art and American art, American University, Washington DC

… → 1984

Tehran University

1979 → …

External positions

President-Historians of Islamic Art Association


Iran Heritage Foundation in partnership with the International Society for Iranian Studies

2012 → …

Walters Art Museum, Baltimore


University of South Florida

Feb 2011Apr 2011

Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich


Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Ludwig-MaximilianUniversity-Munich


Portland Art Museum


Detroit Institute of Art


University of Michigan


Detroit Institute of Art


Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan


University of Michigan


Smith College


Rutgers University

1994 → …

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

1992 → …

Brooklyn Museum of Art

1990 → …

New York University



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