The MA in Fine and Decorative Art and Design established the model for Sotheby’s Institute’s rigorous and teaching-intensive MA programs. Tracing its origins back to the Works of Art course founded in 1969, it offers an in-depth exploration of connoisseurship and the integrated study of fine and decorative art and design, based on case studies drawn from the late Renaissance to the late twentieth century. Issues examined include style, materials and techniques, copies and revivals, but also investigation of patterns of patronage, collecting, and a consideration of the historical and contemporary art market for a range of fine and decorative art and design objects. The program is aimed at students who seek an immersive object-based approach to the study of a wide range of art works, and who intend to pursue a career within the professional art world whether as an auction house expert, dealer, art advisor, curator, or academic.
MA in Fine and Decorative Art and Design students analyze a range of predominantly European objects dating from the Renaissance to the late twentieth century. The Master’s degree is awarded for 120 taught credits across two semesters, as well as the completion of a 60-credit dissertation over the course of an additional semester. The program is of twelve months’ duration.
In the first semester, Art Futures (15 Credits) brings students from different MAs together for an exploration of the art world of the future, with particular emphasis on technology, sustainability, inclusion and the politics of cultural property (restitution). In Professional Practice (15 credits) students are introduced to professional art world skills and career options and to a variety of research methodologies within the field of fine and decorative art and design. During the program, specialist electives can be chosen from across all Institute Master’s programs, allowing a student to build a personalized Master’s profile. Students take two 15-credit electives across a variety of offerings for deeper expertise or to develop specialties. Core units (60 credits) for the Fine and Decorative Art and Design degree include Fine and Decorative Art, and Art and Design: Modernity and Modernisms.
For the first two semesters, an intensive program of lectures given by faculty and by visiting experts is supported and enriched by visits to museums, galleries, historic houses, auction houses, fairs, temporary exhibitions, and by handling sessions, which provide first-hand experience of materials and techniques. Students will examine objects them from a stylistic point of view, but not neglecting the wider historical, social, economic and cultural factors which have influenced the production of these art works. The program aims to develop critical understanding of the terms: “fine art,” “decorative art,” and “design,” as well as the synergies and divergences between art objects across a range of media and periods. Through detailed study of objects, students will also gain an understanding of the consumption of art works, examining patterns of patronage and collecting, and the historical and contemporary art market.
For the MA degree, students must complete the 60-credit dissertation in their third semester. During this final semester there is no formal teaching, with students researching their dissertation topics under the guidance of individual supervisors. At the start of the program, students are allocated a personal tutor who supports their academic and personal development throughout.
Students will be assessed through coursework, which will typically include essays, individual and group presentations, projects, reviews, and a final academic or practice based dissertation.