Are you interested in developing an in-depth understanding of art and its contexts of interpretation and mediation from the late 19th to the 21st centuries? Then this programme is ideal for you.
As a capital city with a strong cultural sector, Edinburgh is host to a variety of modern and contemporary art institutions that will enrich your student experience. The two core courses of the programme are Research, Theories and Methods and Politics and Cultures of Display. A range of electives cover developments from the historical avant-gardes to performance, art and the document, postcolonial critique, the theories and politics shaping the contemporary art field, and the city in relation to creative practice – all exploring the changing role of art and art institutions in society. The dissertation will help you develop your own ideas, preparing you for being a confident, independent researcher engaged in curating and criticism, or progressing to a PhD.
The programme places a strong emphasis on theoretical and philosophical debates, while the annual Fellowship in Contemporary Art Theory and Curating permits you to look behind the scenes and learn directly from a practitioner. You will also have the opportunity to choose from a selection of optional internships in the cultural sector in or near Edinburgh (offered on a competitive basis) that provide hands-on experience. The weekly research seminars will introduce you to invited scholars and curators. Offered at one of the top universities in the world, with a long tradition in the humanities, this programme demands intellectual commitment and an interest in current developments in the arts sector.
In completing the programme, you will have gained knowledge in current and often challenging approaches to modern and contemporary art that will enhance your understanding of how art is presented in its diverse contexts.
You can then carry on as a researcher (for example, to a PhD) if you are interested in an academic career, or seek employment in the art world and the exciting, global opportunities associated with that, including: curating and programming, audience development, employment in private or state-funded galleries, art development agencies, education and interpretation, art publishing, and art education.
Who is this programme for?
We welcome students from backgrounds in the humanities, the arts or curating and related fields. The programme demands an interest in and engagement with art theory and current developments in the arts sector. We encourage our students to be ambitious, questioning and to pay attention to international trends.
What makes us special?
Our optional internships are a popular feature of our programme. These are limited and offered on a competitive basis, as available placements in the sector vary annually. The primary aim is to introduce students to a working environment related to art and/or art history, or culture more broadly. Placements are arranged in appropriate host institutions in or near Edinburgh. During the internship, students are covered by their host's liability insurance.
Students who secure an internship are normally required to work 20 full days for the host institution (one day per week over the two semesters). They are offered appropriate, academically related tasks, such as cataloguing, indexing, helping to prepare and install an exhibition, drawing up a publicity or education leaflet, or researching conservation case histories. Upon completion of the internship, students write and present an Internship Report.
Upon completion of the internship, students write and present an Internship Report.
Fellowship in Contemporary Art Theory and Curating
Our programme is also supported by the Fellowship in Contemporary Art Theory and Curating, where a leading expert is appointed annually to work with students normally for two to three weeks each year, in the context of the core course Cultures and Politics of Display. Appointed Fellows may offer lectures or seminars or engage students in other activities, as appropriate.
Past Fellows have included: 2010-11 Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt (focus: Economy and the Art World); 2011-12 Sarah Cook (focus: Curating and the Digital World); 2012-13 Katrina Brown (focus: Curating and Art Biennials); 2013-14 Kirsten Lloyd (focus: Social Reproduction and Contemporary Art); 2014-15 Arika - duo Barry Esson and Bryony McIntyre (focus: Curating beyond Exhibition Formats); 2015-16 Kirstie Skinner (focus: Collecting Contemporary Art); 2017-18: Nizan Shaked (focus: art museums, philanthropy, and finance capital; and art and social movements). In 2018-19, our Fellow will be Charles Esche, Director of Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, professor of contemporary art and curating at Central Saint Martins, UAL, London, and co-director of Afterall Journal and Books. Our Fellow in 2019-20 is Laura Guy, a writer and curator working in contemporary art and photography and feminist, queer and Marxist approaches to art historiography. Her writing on feminist cultural production in the context of lesbian communities in the 1970s and '80s has been published in various journals including Aperture, Photoworks and Women: A Cultural Review. Current projects include an exhibition (co-curated with Mason Leaver-Yap) of work from the archives of Tessa Boffin, Ingrid Pollard and Jill Posener, which will open at Auto Italia, London, in 2020. She currently works as an Early Career Academic Fellow in Art History at Newcastle University. In Edinburgh, Laura will work on Curating Archives between Labour and Capital.
What will you study?
The programme is underpinned by two compulsory core courses over the academic year: Research Theories and Methods and Cultures and Politics of Display. In addition, you will take option courses (electives) on subjects ranging from Impressionism and Surrealism to the evolving paradigms of the 21st century. Option modules can be chosen from within History of Art, other schools in Edinburgh College of Art or related fields such as Film. The History of Art electives include:
Surrealism, Violence and History; The Need to Document: Contemporary Art from Performance to Biopolitics; The Creative City in Theory and Practice; What Moves Them: Dance and Performance since 1913; Impressionism and the Third Republic: Culture, Politics and Social Change 1865-1900; Art and Society in the Contemporary World - China; Scottish Art since the 1960s: Practice and Debate. Critical Episodes in 20th-Century German Art; Theorising Contemporary Art; The Aesthetics of Difference: Postcolonial Perspectives from the 19th to the 21st Century.
Please note that option modules may change from year to year depending on staff research leave.
The general expertise of staff teaching the MSc is in the areas of the historical avant-gardes and neo-avant-gardes from the 19th to the 21st centuries; art, culture and globalisation (from 1990 to date); lens-based media (photography, film, video) and digital culture; art and labour; performance, activist and participatory art; the museum and related art institutions including the art market; sexual politics and feminist theory; Marxism and critical theory; regional and national art scenes (China, Latin America, Scotland, Nordic, Eastern and Southern European art); contemporary art theory; painting and calligraphy; cultural identity and transnationalism; art and ecology.
Staff teaching the MSc are active researchers and some of them are affiliated to Edinburgh-based research groups such as Dada & Surrealism and The Global Contemporary. Many are active as curators collaborating with a range of institutions nationally and internationally.