You will study three core modules and two optional modules before completing your 15,000 word dissertation.
You will study four core modules:
Curatorial Practices A
This module introduces students to key concepts and theoretical approaches in curatorial practice. Set readings and seminar discussions explore topics which might include museums and galleries as sites of power, the role of the curator, the role of exhibitions, the relationship between curating and art history, and how objects acquire meaning through display.
Students are also introduced to their curatorial project and work as a group on this in conjunction with staff members from the partner institutions. By the end of term each group will have researched and established their project theme and, in the case of an exhibition, their list of loans or artists, and considered further aspects of their exhibition, including layout and public programming. These ideas will be presented and critiqued in group presentations attended by gallery and academic staff.
Students are taught by both academic staff and gallery professionals. Participation in the curatorial project will require willingness to take part in regular meetings (of which 10 hours count towards the module’s contact time).
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Curatorial Practices B
Whereas Curatorial Practices A introduces students to key concepts in curatorial practice, Curatorial Practices B focuses on related practical skills and critical approaches. Topics might include exhibition administration, interpretation, communication and marketing, public programming and public learning.
Students develop their knowledge of these topics in seminars taught by both academic staff and gallery professionals. They also work in conjunction with staff members from the partner institutions to implement aspects of their related project. This might include gallery text and press releases, object layout and exhibition design. This will require willingness to take part in regular meetings (of which 10 hours count towards the module’s contact). As the project is produced in a professional museum or gallery environment, deadlines can be subject to change.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Please note: Once you have accepted your offer and met your offer conditions, you will be sent a form to choose your preferred exhibition partner for the Curatorial Practices modules. Where possible, we will give you your first choice, but there is a limit to the number of students each gallery can accommodate.
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.
Assessment: Written assignment
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.
The programme also offers you the flexibility to select a further two options from a range of complementary practical, theoretical and historical modules, including a placement with a local gallery or other arts organisation. Module choices include:
Placements: Art History in the Field
The placement module is held in conjunction with institutions including Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Royal Birmingham Society of Art and the New Art Gallery Walsall. More information on our placement providers.
This placement is organised by the department for you and you are mentored by an academic member of staff throughout its duration. The placement allows you to work on a part-time and flexible basis in a museum, gallery or arts organisation and to work independently or as part of a team. You will work towards a specific area such as collection research, exhibition development, learning and engagement, or social media. The placements take place in either the autumn or spring semester, and are for a day a week over 11 weeks. Unlike placements that you may have organised before, this placement is accompanied by an academic tutor, who will help you reflect on the placement.
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.
Assessment: Two 2,000-word essays
What is British Art?
What exactly is British art, and how does it relate to national identity? This module provides a broad overview of developments in British art from c.1760 to the present. It questions and unpacks this art historical category, by examining the key debates and writings that have shaped our understanding and definition of British art. It engages with the ways in which the boundaries of British art have been increasingly redrawn in recent years, as art historians integrate Britain’s imperial past and postcolonial present into the study of British art.
The module will consider the ways in which British art has been made, exhibited, experienced, conceptualised and contested. It will examine the breadth of British art, notably painting and sculpture, but also photography, the decorative arts, and more recent conceptual approaches. Students will engage directly with artworks through visits to relevant collections.
The module’s broad chronological sweep encompasses a diverse set of ideas related to British art. Topics might include: What is British Art?; art and empire; British ‘isms’ and movements; ‘English’ or ‘British’? Four nations art history; collecting and exhibiting British art; writing British art; the Royal Academy and the creation of the ‘British school’; researching British Art; judging British art; and queering British art.
This module includes mandatory and optional visits to museums and galleries. The cost of these will be covered by the Department. (Read more about this module)
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Exhibition Cultures (formerly 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, but an exhibition history constitutes 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, culture and institutional critique (Bourdieu, Foucault, Bhabha) and to aspects that are pertinent to exhibitions, including the relevance of place and 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).
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a supervisor, culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation.
Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.