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VIDEO: Meet Anthony Downey, Director of Contemporary Art

MA Contemporary Art, London

Sotheby's MA in Contemporary Art is the longest running specialised post-graduate course 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.

Students graduate from this intensive 12-month programme with the in-depth knowledge and professional preparation to work in any area of the expanding contemporary art world. Our graduates are employed in private galleries, auction houses, museums and foundations, private and public collecting, art publishing, art investing and consulting, archives, charities and not-for-profits, art services and websites, and academia.

Numerous guest lectures by influential speakers help familiarise students with the many professional options available in the international art world. Recent speakers have included:
- Iwona Blazwick, OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery, London
- Victoria Miro, Victoria Miro Gallery, London
- Yinka Shonibare MBE, Turner Prize nominated artist, London 
- Cheyenne Westphal, Chairman Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s Europe

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

  • An intensive programme of lectures by faculty members of international standing, to give students a solid grounding in the history of art since 1968. The programme covers developments in world contemporary art, concentrating on the most recent practices and on the sweeping changes in an increasingly digitalised and globalised 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 programme 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 centres where visits to studios, galleries, museums and biennials offer in situ teaching opportunities and enhance each student’s first-hand experience of contemporary art. 

Core Curriculum

All of the Master’s programmes at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London and New York are enhanced by a core curriculum* that provides a powerful set of professional skills and critical understandings for our students to mobilize at the completion of their degrees.

Course dates

ACADEMIC YEAR 2013 - 2014

September – December 2013

  • Art from 1968 – 1990
  • Critical issues in contemporary art
  • Writing and publishing art criticism
  • Networks of the art world
  • Globalisation and art practices
  • Research seminars and presentations
  • Research methodology
  • Study visits to North of England and Northern Germany
  • International guest lecture series and artists’ studio visits

January – June 2014

  • Art from 1990 to the present day
  • Curating an exhibition in a public or private gallery
  • Producing a print or web-based magazine
  • Art, criticism and contemporary literature
  • Research seminars and presentations
  • Key global artists, key international exhibitions
  • Research methodologies and critical theory
  • Art law and business
  • Contemporary practices and concerns: the artist’s medium, site-specificity, participation
  • International guest lecture series and studio visits
  • Study visit to European Biennial and exhibitions

June – October 2014

  • Dissertation (MA only).
    Students prepare a dissertation under the supervision of their tutor.


Dr. Anthony Downey, Programme Director
Dr. Marcus Verhagen
Dr. Edgar Schmitz
Dr. Gilda Williams

Plus consultant lecturers including:
Anna Moszynska
Pierre Saurisse
Jennifer Thatcher

Course fees

UK & EU Nationals
Deposit: £500
Semester 1: £ 9,450
Semester 2: £ 9,950
Semester 3: £4,300
Total: £24,200

Non-UK/EU Nationals
Deposit: £500
Semester 1: £10,210
Semester 2: £10,710
Semester 3: £4,480
Total: £25,900

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

Travel costs: £1,700

Academic Prospectus

Click here to download programme prospectus. (PDF)

How to Apply

Click here to learn how to apply.

* Subject to approval by The University of Manchester

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