Contemporary Art History Graduate Programs

There are a number of options for students who are considering enrolling in contemporary art history graduate programs. Here, students can learn some general information about these programs, including admission information and common courses.

Graduate programs in contemporary art history are available at a number of universities around the United States, generally at the master's degree level. The curriculum of these programs typically requires that students complete some core courses in addition to elective courses, in which students can select subjects that align with their interests.

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Information About Graduate Programs in Contemporary Art History

Students who would like to enroll in graduate degree programs in contemporary art history can find master's degree programs in this field that take around two years to complete. These programs may be specifically in contemporary art history, or they may be offered as more general art history degrees in which students can select a contemporary art track. Below, we will look at five courses that may be commonly found in these programs.

Survey of Modern and Contemporary Art

Graduate programs in contemporary art history will likely include a course near the beginning of the program that provides students with a survey of the contemporary and modern art world. In this course, students will learn about some of the pivotal moments, major artists, and most important works that have shaped the contemporary art movement since the mid 1850s. Depending on the school, courses in this field may cover contemporary art both in the United States and Europe, as well as around the world or focus on a specific country/location.


These programs may also have a course that focuses specifically on postmodernism. In a course like this, students will learn about the contemporary art world since the 1980s when postmodernism began. Artists that will likely be discussed in this course include Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger, and the Guerrilla Girls. Issues that were central to the postmodernist movement may be discussed, like gender identity, racism, and sexuality as well as other technical issues relevant to the consumption of art such as its reproduction, authorship, and the commodity culture.

Methods and Materials in Contemporary Art

Graduate programs in this field will also likely include a course that gives students an overview of different types of methods and materials that are used in contemporary and modern art. Students will learn about traditional materials and methods, like painting and printmaking, as well as newer methods like filming and installation sculptures and how these newer methods have affected practical elements like art storage and conservation. Some schools may offer hands-on opportunities for learning in this course through field studies and trips to conservation facilities, art workshops, and production sites. Additionally, students will learn about the relationship between technology and art and how technology has changed the art world.

Art Market

These programs also may include a course that focuses on some aspects of the art market. For example, some courses may focus on the modern art market of today and how this market has developed and transformed throughout history. Students may also be exposed to the various types of art markets and examine how these institutions have shaped the art world in the past and the present time. Other courses in this field may focus on what types of skills are necessary to be successful in art markets, like how to run a gallery or auction house, identify audiences, and effectively advertise and market artworks.


Another course that may be found in these programs is one that focuses on connoisseurship, or the analysis and evaluation of art. In such a course, students may learn about the history of theories in connoisseurship and how to apply the principles of these theories to historic and contemporary art. This course may also likely include a type of hands-on component in which students can evaluate different types of artwork, the materials used, and the techniques that were employed by the artist.

Admission Standards for Contemporary Art History Graduate Programs

Contemporary art history graduate programs typically expect that students will have taken some courses in art history or closely-related fields like anthropology, media studies, or architectural history. Some programs may also encourage applicants to demonstrate knowledge of a foreign language. When applying, students will need to submit official undergraduate transcripts, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and a resume. Some programs may require GRE scores, while others make this an optional component of the application.

Through its various courses and academic training, master's degree programs in contemporary art history can provide graduate students with the knowledge and skills they can use for further studies or employment. Though specific schools' admissions requirements may vary, those with a background in this field may have a competitive edge over other applicants.

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