MA Art History and Curating

Start date
September
Duration
1 year full-time; 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught
Fees

Annual Tuition Fees for 2019/20:
UK/EU: £9,250 full-time
International: £17,495 full-time
More detail.

Are you fascinated by visual culture and exhibition practice? Do you want to pursue a career in the gallery and arts sectors? 

The MA in Art History and Curating is one of the few postgraduate programmes in the country that offers you the opportunity to work in a team with academic and museum professionals to curate an art exhibition in a public gallery with which the Department has a long-standing relationship. This will take place in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts on campus or at Grand Union in Birmingham city centre. 

The exhibitions at the Barber Institute usually focus on a historical aspect, using objects from the collection of the Royal Collection Trust, our current partner, of which the Queen is the lender.

The exhibitions at Grand Union are contemporary art shows that involve the selection of artists applying with a project to be curated by the students and shown at Grand Union, a funky site in the midst of warehouses and factories, not unlike those places in London were the Young British Artists exhibited in the 1980s.

This unique programme enables you to develop the knowledge and skills to conduct original research into art objects and to understand at first-hand the history, theory and practice of contemporary curating through co-curating a public art exhibition.

As a result of the wide range of modules and practical experience offered, this unique programme will provide you with the knowledge, experience and employability skills invaluable to the museum, commercial and academic sectors whilst enabling you to establish professional networks in both.

Please note: There are specific application deadlines for this programme.  Please see 'How to apply' in course details for more information. It is advisable to apply early, as this programme is very popular.

 

College of Arts and Law postgraduate scholarships available

The College of Arts and Law is offering a range of scholarships for our postgraduate taught and research programmes to ensure that the very best talent is nurtured and supported.

Learn more about our scholarships

Resilience, leadership and confidence. I earned and developed those skills in my programme which will help me start my career and be confident about my knowledge and work as a curator. All modules offered me the possibility to be critical of what I see and read which was one of the most valuable skills we were taught.

Rafailia Thiraiou, MA Art History and Curating

Why Study this Course?

  • Location – teaching takes place primarily in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts – one of the finest art galleries in the country – surrounded by works from world-renowned artists and sculptors, from Jan Steen to Auguest Rodin. The campus prides itself with sculptures by Barbara Hepworth and Eduardo Paolozzi. The University has also a non-western art collection, particularly strong in African masks and artefacts. We are located at the heart of a thriving city, considered the second city of the UK in terms of population, with excellent public transport and a vibrant portfolio of established and emerging art galleries and art organisations including Ikon, a well-known, internationally acclaimed contemporary art venue and the BMAG, a gallery specialising in the Pre-Raphaelites and a forerunner in being a community-oriented site that collects and exhibits objects from all ethnic groups. Needless to say that we have established contacts with a large number of these art galleries and organisations, explaining also the high employability rate of our students. Unique of our location is that we are situated in the middle of England, which allows easy access to the north and south, but also east and west.
  • Join an active and vibrant student community – you will benefit from a lively, supportive and intellectually stimulating postgraduate community, providing an ideal environment in which to study. You will have the opportunity to become active members of both departmental and university-wide research communities and help plan, organise and participate in public lectures, research seminars and the History of Art annual symposia.
  • Boost your employability skills – the programme provides ideal preparation for future careers in museums and galleries. You will also have the opportunity to complete an optional module where you will be able to take up a part-time 11-week (unpaid) placement in a local art institution with which we have established links. Our placement providers, offering opportunities to work in curating, administration, in archives and art education, include the Birmingham Museums Trust; Ikon; Wolverhampton Art Gallery; RBSA and Walsall Art Gallery. Read more about our placement providers and students' career outcomes.
  • Enhance your knowledge on a range of topics – you will develop sophisticated knowledge and understanding of a range of themes discussed in recent museum studies discourses and practiced in art institutions regarding art interpretation; modes of display; marketing; access and learning; administration and finance; art handling and digital technology.
  • Extracurricular activities – The Department is home to the online Journal of Art Historiography and postgraduate students can apply to become editorial assistants. You also have the opportunity to volunteer at the Barber Institute. Read our official blog, The Golovinefor an insight into life within the Department. After a long day of study, you can stretch and relax at the university’s Munrow Sports Centre on campus (with smaller venues nearby), which has been praised for its outstanding facilities and high quality equipment that includes a large gym and an Olympic-size swimming pool.

The postgraduate experience

The College of Arts and Law offers excellent support to its postgraduates, from libraries and research spaces, to careers support and funding opportunities. Learn more about your postgraduate experience.


Modules

You will study three core modules and two optional modules before completing your 15,000 word dissertation.

Core modules

You will study three core modules:

Curatorial Practices

This module will teach you about the various aspects of organising an exhibition, and underlying theories and practices. It is taught by both academics and gallery professionals with leading expertise in the field. You will be jointly taught in weekly seminars and lectures that discuss museum and gallery practice, as well as being taught in your separate exhibition groups. You will learn a range of skills related to the organisation of an exhibition including marketing, interpretation and research. 

Your exhibition will be based at either The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, working in collaboration with the Royal Collection Trust, or at Grand Union, working with contemporary artists. Your research will involve trips to relevant collections or/and artists’ studios. The costs of these trips are covered by the Department. 

For the Grand Union exhibition, you will select and work with up to five contemporary artists to co-curate an exhibition opening in June 2019. This exhibition will enable you to learn about: working with artists and curators; contemporary art; studio visits; commissioning and selecting artists; and independent and freelance curating. 

For the Barber exhibition, you will select artworks from our exciting new partner organisation, the Royal Collection Trust, and the exhibition will run from June to September 2019. This exhibition will enable you to learn about: working with archivists and curators; the Royal Collections; University Collections; working with accredited museums; and working primarily with historic collections.

Read more about our exhibition partners and past exhibitions.

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 module. Where possible, we will give you your first choice, but there is a limit to the number of students each gallery can accommodate.

Assessment: Two 4,000-word essays

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.
Assessment: Presentation

Optional modules

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.
Assessment: 4,000-word-essay

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

Defining 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.
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

Dissertation

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.

Fees

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2019/20 are as follows:

  • UK/EU: £9,250 full-time; £4,625 part-time
  • International: £17,495 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Fee status

Eligibility for UK/EU or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

We can also confirm that EU students who are already studying at the University of Birmingham or who have an offer to start their studies in the 2019/20 academic year will continue to be charged the UK fee rate applicable at the time, provided this continues to be permitted by UK law. The UK Government has also confirmed that students from the EU applying to courses starting in the 2019/20 academic year will not see any changes to their loan eligibility or fee status. This guarantee will apply for the full duration of the course, even if the course finishes after the UK has left the EU.

Paying your fees

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

How To Apply

Please note that places on this programme are limited due to the option of taking up a professional work placement and curating a public exhibition. Due to the competitive nature of the programme, applications are being considered in rounds, with application deadlines for 2019 entry as follows:

  • Round 1 application deadline: Friday 23 November 2018
  • Round 2 application deadline: Friday 25 January 2019
  • Round 3 application deadline: Friday 19 April 2019
  • Round 4 application deadline: Monday 1 July 2019
  • Final application deadline: Friday 19 July 2019 [UK/EU only]

Please note: Most funding deadlines fall in spring, and funding applications usually need to be considered alongside an application to study. Applicants seeking funding are therefore encouraged to apply in rounds 1 or 2.

Applications will be considered as a gathered field, so round 1 applicants can expect a decision as to whether they have been offered a place to study by the end of December, round 2 applicants can expect a decision by the end of March, round 3 applicants can expect a decision by the end of June and round 4 applicants can expect a decision by the end of July.

As we can only make offers to a limited number of applicants, those who receive an offer of a place to study will have approximately one month to accept their offer, after which time the offer will be withdrawn so that the place can be offered to another applicant.

All applicants will receive a decision on their application by mid-August 2019, unless notified otherwise.

Advice on your application

Please ensure that your application has been completed fully by the deadline as we cannot consider your application without all of the necessary documentation (references, personal statement and results, if available). If you have outstanding documentation relating to pending language test results and degree results, please make this clear on your application, and your application will be considered.

Early applications are encouraged as the number of places available will reduce in each round. It is not necessary to wait until you have finished your current programme of study to make an application as we are able to make offers which are conditional on you achieving a particular qualification.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

You will need an Honours degree in History of Art or a cognate Humanities subject, of an upper second-class standard or higher (or its academic equivalent). Candidates holding degrees in other disciplines (e.g. broader Arts subjects) will only be considered if they can demonstrate interest and experience in History of Art, e.g. through studying relevant modules and/or undertaking related work experience.

Personal statement: You should use your personal statement to explain why you wish to study this programme, and your suitability for the programme, with reference to any past and present experience you have in this subject.

References: We ask that you provide at least one academic reference unless you have been out of education for a number of years, in which case professional references will be considered. Your references should be submitted promptly, and they should address your track record in detail, citing specific examples of past work and reasons why you are suited to the demands of an MA course.

International/EU students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band.. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 21 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements


The teaching on the MA programme mainly takes place in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, which houses the Barber Institute Gallery, and is used by members of staff on a regular basis as part of your learning.

The Gallery features an excellent and representative collection of post-medieval European art, including paintings, engravings and drawings by artists such as Rembrandt, Turner, Van Dyck, Veronese and Vigée-LeBrun, as well as a major collection of 19th- and 20th-century works by artists such as Degas, Gauguin, Käthe Kollwitz, George Grosz, Manet, Miró, Picasso and Whistler.

The Barber Institute is home to an on-site research library which, in conjunction with the holdings of the University Main Library and the Special Collections of the Cadbury Research Library, makes Birmingham one of the best resourced Departments of History of Art in Britain.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

The MA Art History and Curating provides students with practical skills and experience to allow them to pursue careers in galleries and museums. Read more about our student journeys

The experiences you gain throughout your degree will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University. 

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver tailored programmes of careers events and local support. 

You will have opportunities to: meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs; attend employer presentations and skills workshops; receive individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities. 

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: History of Art

Birmingham's History of Art graduates develop a broad range of transferable skills, including: familiarity with research methods; the ability to manage large quantities of information from diverse sources; the ability to organise information in a logical and coherent manner; the expertise to write clearly and concisely and to tight deadlines; critical and analytical ability; the capacity for argument, debate and speculation; and the ability to base conclusions on detailed research.

Our History of Art postgraduates also have the advantage of gaining hands-on experience at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts: the university's on-campus art gallery which is home to the Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies.

Over the past five years, over 98% of History of Art postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Many graduates enter occupations relating to gallery and museum management and curatorship; others pursue careers in academia. Employers that our graduates have gone on to work for include: Barber Institute of Fine Arts; Birmingham Museums Trust; National Trust; National Portrait Gallery; Royal Birmingham Society of Artists; University of Birmingham; and the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust.