Courtesy of Yale

The days of classrooms packed with female students receiving lectures from a male-dominated faculty are over for the Department of History of Art, and happily so, according to department chair Tim Barringer.

This year’s addition of three new female professors of color — Pamela Lee ’88, Cécile Fromont and Subhashini Kaligotla — to the department bolsters what has now become a majority female faculty teaching art history at the University. The hiring of these professors not only adds racial diversity to the University faculty but provides Yale with expertise in three key fields of art history — Modern and Contemporary Art; African Art and Art of the African Diaspora; and South Asian Art.

“We are committed to art history as a global discipline, and the multifarious traditions of Africa and South Asia are absolutely central to that vision,” Barringer said. “Much of the most interesting work in art history looks at transregional exchange and the arrival of these three scholars makes it more possible than ever for us to engage in these conversations.”

According to Barringer, the department holds one of the highest ratios of women to men at the University, with 13 of 18 listed faculty identifying as female.

The three new hires focus on diverse areas of study and represent varied backgrounds. Lee left Stanford University after two decades to explore contemporary art as a global phenomenon at Yale. Fromont, who Barringer described as “a leader” among her generation of scholars focused on the “global context” of African art, taught at the University of Chicago, said Barringer. Kaligotla received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2015 before accepting her position at Yale, where her research will focus on Indian and South Asian art and architecture.

The diverse academic specialties of the three new professors will broaden the academic scope of the department at a time when the art world is becoming more globalized than ever.

Kaligotla said she senses a shift away from the traditional western focus of art history departments. The scholar of Indian and South Asian art history has a personal connection to her areas of study, having been born in India and later spending several years in Kuwait before moving to the United States to pursue her undergraduate education. Kaligotla said she is the only member of the department whose work is primarily centered on India and South Asia.

“There is an interest in moving outside [the] focus of Europe and America and building up an expertise whether in Asia, Africa or Latin America, or other world regions that play a crucial role in our understanding of history,” said Kaligotla.

Fromont, originally from the French Caribbean, works primarily in African art. She said that Yale has one of the oldest programs on African art history in the United States and has been “very important” in expanding the discipline. She added that she views her employment as an opportunity to make Yale “the beating heart of African art history” by utilizing the “amazing” resources on campus.

In a similar vein, Lee called her own scholarship in late modern and contemporary art “productive and complementary” to the work already being done at the University. She said she is “delighted” to return to Yale, after having studied art history here as an undergraduate.

Fromont said that the three new hires have not yet had the opportunity to work together directly, but she is optimistic about the potential for collaboration with both Lee and Kaligotla.

“We are in different fields of art history, both in time and space,” she said. “But the beauty of being together now in a department that is deeply engaged in exploring global artistic manifestations, is that we may very well work together in the future, either in teaching, or in advising students, or even in a research project that would emerge from our conversation.”

The professors are three of the 46 new tenured and tenure-track professors hired by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences this academic school year.

Carly Wanna |