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MA Contemporary Art, New York

New York City is home to the largest concentration of art galleries, auction houses, museums, foundations, art publications, and other visual arts organizations in the world.

The city’s financial resources, its cultural diversity, its vast networks of artists, collectors, and arts professionals are unsurpassed. These features make New York a key hub of the global art market and a vibrant and inspiring place to study contemporary art.

The program in Contemporary Art provides an in-depth analysis of works of art from the post-war period to present. Emphasis is given to the formal, historical, and critical analysis of art of this period.

In addition to lectures and seminars, this program of study includes regular visits to galleries, museums, and private collections in New York and further afield, a series of nationally and internationally. The program combines academic education with professional training in order to enable students to interpret a wide array of contemporary art including painting, sculpture, photography, and time-based media, as well as performance and ephemeral work.

This dynamic program prepares graduates to pursue a variety of careers in the art world, from working in commercial galleries, private collections, museums and foundations, to establishing independent galleries, working as curators, appraisers, critics or editors. Our graduates keep in touch via the Institute’s alumni network to share information and resources.


Master’s programs at Sotheby’s Institute in New York consist of three semesters: Fall 2015, Spring 2016, and Fall 2016. The MAs in American Fine and Decorative Art, Art Business and Contemporary Art share a general structure with both the first and second semesters including both core courses alongside the primary subject of the MA. In the final semester, students have the opportunity to continue with their primary subjects in greater depth, explore a second area of study, or spend a final term at either the London or Los Angeles campus.

The first semester begins with an intensive and multi-faceted introductory unit, an introduction to current issues in the art world – its structures and organizations, as well as its essential skills and protocols. Site visits, lectures and panels, case studies (including, for example, Sotheby’s auction house, the Metropolitan Museum) and workshops provide students with a series of new information and context, as well as real-world examples and experiences.

The course introduces six major topics, each vital to successful engagement in the professional art world.

  • Mapping the Art World: structures and networks
  • How to approach art: from historic to contemporary; visual literacy
  • The Art Market; history, development and emerging markets
  • Collections & Exhibitions: private, corporate and institutional
  • Business & Valuation: concepts, finance, investment
  • Law & Ethics: principles, cases and methods


September - December, 2015
  • Navigating the Art World
  • The International Art Market
  • Contemporary Art from 1960 – Present
  • Theories of Post-War Art
  • The Work of Art, from Studio to Museum
  • Field Study I (e.g. DIA Beacon; Mexico City, UAE, Venice Biennale)

January - May, 2016 
  • Global Art Production
  • Theories of Contemporary Art
  • Art Business Elective
  • Elective (e.g. Curating Contemporary Art, Business & Gallery Management, Latin American Art)
  • Field Study II (e.g. Dubai Art Fair, UAE, Mexico City, Beijing/Shanghai)

September - December, 2016
  • Master’s Project/Thesis
  • Advanced Elective (e.g. Contemporary Asian Art, Adv. Topics in Contemporary Art, Issues in Performance Art)
  • Advanced Elective

    Course fees

    Programme fees 2015-2016
    Semester 1: $22,600 
    Semester 2: $22,600
    Semester 3: $22,600

    Travel Study Fees: $6,300 for first year only

    Note: course offerings subject to change pending annual curriculum review

    How to Apply

    Click here to learn how to apply.


    A digital version of our 2015/16 prospectus will soon be available online.
    Please contact for more information.

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    “Sotheby’s Institute of Art solidified my academic background with intensive coursework. The worldwide travel and professional development helped me to gain the contacts and knowledge necessary to successfully operate in a global art market.” 
    Trevor Freedland, Registrar/Post Production Supervisor, Fred Torres Collaborations, New York MA Contemporary Art, 2009

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