You will study three core modules:
The ‘Curatorial Practices’ module is team taught by both academics and gallery professionals with leading expertise in the field. You will have weekly seminars and lectures that discuss museum and gallery practice. You will learn a range of skills related to the organisation of an exhibition including marketing, interpretation and curation. The exhibition is open to the public over the summer months June- August and your team will be involved in hosting related exhibition events.
Over the past three years, the MA exhibition at the Barber Institute has been held in conjunction with loaned works from the National Portrait Gallery; a partnership that continues. As part of the ‘Curatorial Practices’ module you will make two research trips to the National Portrait Gallery to view the loans and meet curators. The costs of these trips are covered by the department.
Past MA exhibitions have included:
- 2014 - Lasting Impressions (in collaboration and with loans from the National Portrait Gallery including Francis Bacon; Oskar Kokoschka; Eric Gill and Richard Hamilton)
- 2013 - Defining Faces (in collaboration and with loans from the National Portrait Gallery, London)
- 2012 - Facing the Music. Twentieth-Century Portraits of British Composers (in collaboration and with loans from the National Portrait Gallery, London)
- 2011 - A Gem of a Game: The Roots of Lawn Tennis in the West Midlands (with loans from a private collection)
Postgraduate Research Training and Methods
This module will prepare you for the researching and writing of your dissertation, and your dissertation proposal. (Please note: You do not need to write a formal research proposal as part of the MA application process.) It is seminar-based and covers topics such as: referencing systems; writing a research proposal; literature reviews; approaching archives; oral histories.
Your dissertation topic is chosen by you, with close guidance from academic staff. Recent subjects have included topics relating to art history and/or gallery practices, such as: art forgery; art interpretation; art dealers; films and aesthetic theory; art historiography; artist and exhibition case studies; fashion plates and art journals.
Criticism and Methods in the History of Art and Visual Culture
This module looks at the historiography, methods and theoretical underpinning of contemporary practices of artistic and visual analysis. Based on close reading of key scholarly texts, you will engage with traditional art historical methods as well as more recent approaches to the study of art and visual culture. You will be asked to consider the relevance of these methods to a range of examples, including the potential topics for your final Masters thesis.
You will also choose two optional modules from a range which may include:
Art History in the Field: Placements
The placement module is held in conjunction with institutions including Birmingham Museums Trust, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, RBSA and Walsall Art Gallery. This placement is organised by the department for you and you are mentored by an academic member of staff throughout its duration. The placement lasts for 12 weeks in total. The placement allows you to work on a part-time and flexible basis in a museum, gallery or auction house context and to work independently or as part of a team. You will work towards collection research, curatorial projects and/or commercial enterprises and produce a small portfolio upon which you are assessed.
Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
This module considers subjects such as: art and the nature of aesthetic experience; beauty, ugliness and the sublime; symbolism and allegory; the aesthetics of modernism. At its core is an introduction to the German aesthetic tradition, involving a close reading of foundational texts by Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel and their contemporaries in the early 19th century. It will also consider the work of subsequent authors, such as Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno and Mikhail Bakhtin, as well as recent and contemporary theorists and philosophers such as Paul Virilio, Jean-François Lyotard, Boris Groys, Niklas Luhmann, Brian Tschumi, Gilles Deleuze, Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray. Attention will be paid not only to the conceptual arguments put forward by the thinkers in question, but also to the ways in which their theoretical tenets have underpinned the interpretation and criticism of works of art, music and literature.
Theorising and Historicising Exhibitions
In many ways, exhibitions have been fundamental to art history, perhaps because artists have been influenced by exhibitions or have been ‘periodised’ by exhibitions (for example, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism). Arguably, art history has also been made through exhibitions. Therefore this module explores art history from the perspective of exhibitions. Such a perspective not only offers an intriguing approach that can be applied to any artist or art period (e.g. studying Michelangelo through exhibitions), but an exhibition history constitutes an obligatory part of any exhibition proposal. Therefore, this module supports both curatorial and art-historical studies.
It provides an introduction to a variety of theoretical approaches to the role of exhibitions regarding society and institutional critique (Bourdieu, Foucault, Bhabha) and to aspects that are pertinent to exhibitions, including the relevance of place and (hyper-)space for an exhibition, display, the role of curator, artist and audiences, marketing and sponsoring. Different from ‘Curatorial Practices’, which probes such aspects in order to facilitate a proposal for or the actual mounting of an exhibition, this module explores them in order to analyse past and current shows (and thus will include gallery visits). It thus complements ‘Curatorial Practices’ but can also stand alone, not requiring that students follow them as pre-requisites or co-requisites
Artists' Film and Video from the 1920s to the Present
This module will offer an in-depth introduction of the field of twentieth century artists’ film. Starting with films by exponents of Dada and Surrealism such as Fernand Léger, Man Ray and Germaine Dulac, it will take in work by American avant-garde artists such as Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, and Jonas Mekas, and more contemporary artist filmmakers such as Peter Greenaway, Valie Export, David Lynch, Derek Jarman, and Steve McQueen. Appropriate theoretical material on the artistic movements represented and on the field of artists’ film and video will be supplied alongside the films themselves throughout the module.
Please note that module options vary from year to year.