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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 Master’s programme 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 in 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.

  • A core curriculum Navigating the Art World, common to all MA programmes, introducing students to the global art world and to the knowledge and skills that are required of those intending to work in it. These sessions focus on the functioning of art world institutions, on legal, ethical and business issues, and on communication and research skills.

Click here to download the full programme prospectus.

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.


ACADEMIC YEAR 2015 - 2016 

September – December 2015

  • Navigating the Art World [Part I]
  • Contemporary Art 1960-1990
  • Global Networks and Curatorial Studies
  • Critical and Theoretical Perspectives I
  • Navigating the Artworld I

Semester I will also include regular gallery visits and extended study visits to North of England and Northern Germany.

January – May 2016 

  • Navigating the Art World [Part II]
  • Contemporary Art 1990-present day
  • Professional Practices and Research Methodologies
  • Critical and Theoretical Perspectives II
  • Contemporary Art and its Practices
  • Navigating the Artworld II

Semester II will also include an extended study visit to the 56th Venice Biennial and artists’ studio visits.

May – September 2016
Dissertation (MA only).

Students prepare a dissertation under the supervision of their tutor.

Course fees

UK & EU Nationals
Deposit: £500
Semester 1: £ 9,450
Semester 2: £ 9,950
Semester 3: £4,800
Total: £24,700

Non-UK/EU Nationals
Deposit: £500
Semester 1: £10,600
Semester 2: £11,100
Semester 3: £5,500
Total: £27,700

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

Travel costs: £1,960

How to Apply

Click here to learn how to apply.


Click here to download the full programme prospectus.

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