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Program Overview

About the Program

Sotheby’s MA in Contemporary Art is the longest running specialised 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.

Students graduate from this intensive 12-month program 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 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 the sweeping changes 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 centres where visits to studios, galleries, museums and biennials offer in situ teaching opportunities and enhance each student’s first-hand understanding of contemporary art;

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.

Core Curriculum

All of the MA programs are enhanced by a 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 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 optional 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.

Click here to download MA structure 2016/17.

MA Contemporary Art Meet Anthony Downey, Director of Contemporary Art at Sotheby's Institute in London
The Details
  • Curriculum-at-a-Glance


    ACADEMIC YEAR 2016 - 2017
    Units of Study
    Core Units

    • Navigating the Art World – Core Curriculum

    • Contemporary Art Histories

    • Debates in Contemporary Art

    Optional Units

    • 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

    • Dissertation projects (MA only)

  • Faculty
  • Course Fees

    Course Fees

    UK & EU Nationals
    Deposit: £500
    Semester 1: £ 9,550
    Semester 2: £ 10,050
    PG Dip total: £20,100
    Semester 3: £4,800
    Total: £24,900

    Non-UK/EU Nationals

    Deposit: £500
    Semester 1: £11,050
    Semester 2: £11,550
    PG Dip total:£23,100
    Semester 3: £5,700
    Total: £28,800
    These fees are exclusive of the cost of travel for study visits.
    Travel costs: TBC
    Click here to apply.
  • Program Prospectus

    Program Prospectus

    Click here to download program prospectus.

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