"My specialism in the Middle East made me stand out from other MA Art History grads"

Aimee Dawson is a British writer, editor and speaker on the art world. She shares her experience studying MA History of Art and how her specialism in Contemporary Art of the Middle East has helped her career so far.

What attracted you to the MA History of Art programme at SOAS? 

I wanted a programme that specialised in Africa, Asia and the Middle East and didn’t just spout the old Western-centric narratives around art history. My interest was specifically in the Middle East, and I wanted to be taught by experts in the field. SOAS is the place for that.

How was your experience?

The classes at SOAS were small, so it was easy to get to know fellow students. I made friendships for life there and have also been in touch with other people I studied with to collaborate on professional projects. I had an excellent mentor too, Simon O’Meara, who really pushed me academically and supported my applications for jobs after I had graduated.

Being in London, in general, was also hugely important for my studies: it is the art centre of the UK and one of the most important art hubs in the world! SOAS even has a gallery on campus: The Brunei Gallery specialises in art from the Global South, and having access to this on campus was really beneficial to my learning and career. 

I regularly attended the openings at the Brunei Gallery, which was a great way to network. I even had the chance to work on the exhibition The Tent Makers of Islamic Cairo in the Brunei Gallery. The photographer on show, Massimiliano Fusari, was one of my lecturers and I assisted in editing the exhibition texts. I am now an editor so it was a very useful skill to have practised!

London is one of the most important art hubs in the world! SOAS even has a gallery on campus that specialises in art from the Global South.

After completing your MA, what career opportunities opened up for you?  

I got an internship at The Art Newspaper almost immediately after graduating with my MA, and I have now been there for almost eight years, working my way up! My boss at the time said she hired me because I came with a unique perspective from studying lesser-known art histories. My specialism in the Middle East made me stand out from other MA Art History grads.

In my current Live Editor role at The Art Newspaper, I focus on the publication's live offering and media portfolio, so i am responsible for commissioning and editing videos, audio and digital content and curating events. I also co-produce The Week in Art, a weekly podcast that picks apart international art world news and provides expert industry insights. I also write the monthly column Insta’ gratification, which looks at how the art world and Instagram collide in often innovative - but also problematic - ways.

I have also been invited back to give talks and seminars at SOAS, which has allowed me to meet lots of interesting people and also led to further work opportunities. Being a guest lecturer at SOAS brings a lot of kudos!

What advice do you have for MA Art History students at SOAS?

Join clubs or contribute to events that demonstrate your skills - not just the ones that are fun! Helping with the Brunei Gallery show was something I added to my LinkedIn and showed my editing skills, and that I had experience in the field I wanted to work in. I would suggest attending events and talking to people - networking is so important in the art industry.

About the author

Aimee Dawson is a British writer, editor and speaker on the art world. Her areas of speciality include art in the digital sphere, art and social media, and Modern and contemporary art in the Middle East. Having studied a BA in Arabic and Middle East Studies at the University of Exeter and holds an MA in History of Art, Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Africa and Asia from SOAS, University of London. Aimee is currently the Live Editor at The Art Newspaper in London.

Aimee's first passion is art from the Middle East and North Africa. She spent time living in Egypt and Morocco, and she continues to regularly travel to the region. She has spoken and written for a number of publications within or related to the Middle East, including Ibraaz, Mada Masr, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Tribe, Reorient, FOLIO and MOJEH magazine, and she has contributed to London's major festivals of Arab culture: Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN), Nour Festival of Arts, and Shubbak.