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Program Overview

About the Program

The MA in Contemporary Art is the longest running specialized Master’s program of its kind in the world. Established in 1991, it focuses on art in the period from 1968 to the present, with strands on art history, curatorial studies and critical theory and a strong emphasis throughout on professional career development. We have a longstanding, proven track record of academic excellence and high-level graduate employment worldwide.

Numerous guest lectures by influential speakers help familiarize students with the many professional options available in the international art world.

Recent speakers have included:
Alfredo Jaar
, artist, New York
Iwona Blazwick
, OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery, London
William Kentridge, artist, Johannesburg
Victoria Miro, Victoria Miro Gallery, London
Yinka Shonibare MBE, artist, London
Emma Baker, Specialist and Head of Research, Sotheby's Auction House, London
Jonathan Watkins, Director, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
Martin Creed, artist, London

In addition, the full-time Master’s Program in Contemporary Art is comprised of:

  • An intensive program of lectures by faculty members of international standing, giving students a solid grounding in the history of art since 1968. The program covers developments in contemporary art from around the world, concentrating on the most recent practices and on changing institutional structures in an increasingly global art world;
  • Small group seminars, workshops and individual presentations focusing on key issues and debates, which help students gain confidence in speaking and reflecting on all forms of contemporary art, from painting and sculpture to video and installation as well as the most recent web-based, collaborative and multidisciplinary practices;
  • One-to-one supervision by personal tutors who offer regular feedback on program assignments (written and oral) and provide clear guidance tailored to the student’s own strengths, interests and career ambitions;
  • Guided visits to major London venues including Tate Modern and the Frieze Art Fair as well as to smaller alternative galleries, which encourage students to observe art directly, assess artworks knowledgeably and examine their curatorial presentation;
  • Organized travel to key European art centers where visits to studios, galleries, museums and biennials offer in situ learning opportunities and enhance each student’s first-hand understanding of contemporary art.
  • Collaborations with a range of London-based institutions, including Chelsea College of Art and Design, SOAS (University of London), and Camden Arts Centre. These collaborations offer opportunities for dialogue with students working in related fields.

About Our MA Students

The MA in Contemporary Art program welcomes prospective students who have an interest in gaining a strong understanding of historical developments, critical debates and institutional networks in the world of contemporary art. Students graduate from this intensive year-long program with the in-depth knowledge and professional preparation to work in any area of the expanding contemporary art world. Our graduates are subsequently employed in private galleries, auction houses, museums and foundations, private and public collecting, art publishing, art investing and consulting, visual archives, charities and not-for-profits, art services and e-commerce, and academia.

Navigating the Art World

All of the MA programs are enhanced by a shared core curriculum, Navigating the Art World, which introduces students to the global art world and provides them with a comprehensive knowledge of art business principles and professional skills as well as critical understanding to mobilize at the completion of their degrees.

Program Structure

The program runs from September to September. Following the institute-wide shared core curriculum, students move on to the specialist study of contemporary art, focusing on the period between 1968 and 1990 in Semester 1. The first semester also includes regular gallery visits and extended study visits to Paris and Northern Germany. In Semester 2 we look at the period between 1990 and the present, concentrating on a small number of topical issues and debates. The second semester includes an extended study visit to the Venice Biennale or to Holland and Belgium, and studio visits.

Students also choose two elective units, either pursuing further specialization in contemporary art or undertaking options that will broaden their understanding of other areas of study, such as fine and decorative arts and design, modern and contemporary Asian art, or art business.

In Semester 3, students prepare and write their dissertations under the supervision of their tutors.

Build Your Concentration

The flexible structure of the Master’s program allows students to concentrate their studies on a chosen field by selecting 2 elective units. Specialist subject areas in which Sotheby’s Institute of Art - London faculty have high level of expertise include Contemporary Design, Photography, East Asian Art and Curating.

Access a copy of the MA structure 2019/20 and explore our Viewbook, click here to download.

MA Contemporary Art Meet Juliet Hacking, Director of MA Contemporary Art, London
The Details
  • Curriculum-at-a-Glance


    ACADEMIC YEAR 2019-20

    Units of Study
    Core Units

    • Navigating the Art World – Shared Core Curriculum

    • Contemporary Art Histories

    • Debates in Contemporary Art

    Elective Units
    (Choose any two of the below)

    • Photography: Image and Power (1968–Now)

    • Curating Contemporary Art

    • Performance Art

    • Photography and its Markets

    • Art and Authentication

    • Contemporary Design and its Markets

    • The International Art World: Public Sectors

    • The Market for Antiquities and Old Masters

    • Strategic Management and the Art World

    • Emerging Markets

    • Ethics, Law and the Art Trade

    • Contemporary Chinese Art

    • Court and Literati Painting in East Asia

    • East Asian Ceramics

    • Curating Asian Art

    • Modernism and its Markets

    • Art World Logistics and Operations

    • Work Placement (accredited internship)

    Dissertation or Practice-Based Dissertation (MA only) 

    Click here for the program electives summary.
  • Faculty
  • Course Fees & Application

    Course Fees & Application

    ACADEMIC YEAR 2019-2020

    Deposit: £500
    Semester 1: £10,050
    Semester 2: £10,550
    Semester 3: £5,200
    MA total: £26,300
    PG Dip total: £21,100

    Deposit: £500
    Semester 1: £12,000
    Semester 2: £12,500
    Semester 3: £6,100
    MA total: £31,100
    PG Dip total: £25,000

    These fees are exclusive of the cost of travel for study visits.

    Travel costs: £2,250

    Click here to apply.

    Click here to read Terms and Conditions.

    Click here to find out about Scholarships, Grants and Loans at Sotheby's Institute - London.

  • Program Prospectus

    Program Prospectus

    Click here to download program prospectus.

    For further information, please contact: or Request Information
    T +44 (0)20 7462 3219
  • Contact And Request Information

    Contact And Request Information

    For further information, please contact: or Request Information
    T +44 (0)20 7462 3219
  • Field Trips

    Field Trips

    Students in the MA in Contemporary Art programme visit a variety of art spaces in London--public and commercial galleries, auction houses, art colleges, project spaces and artists' studios. They also go on three study trips. In 2016/2017, these trips will include a stay in Northern Germany, where students will visit a number of particularly strong public collections as well as smaller spaces and private foundations, including one entirely devoted to contemporary video and film. In the second semester we will go to Paris, which has in recent years become a vibrant contemporary art centre, with the opening of new spaces with ambitious programmes, and later to Holland and Belgium, where the accent will be on curating. On this final trip we will visit both well established public and commercial galleries and smaller institutions that have pioneered new curatorial developments. The purpose of these trips and visits is to gain a more fine-grained and responsive understanding of specific artistic and curatorial practices while also developing first-hand knowledge of the different roles played by various institutions in the networks of the art world.

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