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This Semester program is an intensive study of Asian art through a focus on key themes and developments, and an investigation of its circulation and dissemination within the international art market.  The course is designed for students seeking a thorough grounding in Asian art, and for those who wish to pursue further study in this field or gain a preliminary basis of knowledge for working in the art world.

Asian art is one of the most vibrant and exciting aspects of global art production today. It is a vital aspect of cultural expression in the world, comprising distinct visual and philosophical traditions rooted in the numerous, diverse, and complex cultures of the Asian continent. Encompassing a broad geographical reach and a wide range of art forms, Asia’s art includes Islamic ornament and calligraphy in the western region, ancient bronzes of early ritual culture in China, Buddhist sculpture reaching from India through to Japan and Korea, Chinese landscape painting in the literati scholar tradition, Japanese manga, as well as the diverse and dynamic work of contemporary Asian artists, producing both regionally and globally.

The program prepares students for a wide range of careers in the art world or for further study on one of our postgraduate programs.  Students will learn practical skills and gain knowledge in:

  • Key aspects of Asian art through a lively program of lectures, seminars, museum visits, and encounters with artwork
  • Traditional forms of Asian art as well as modern and contemporary artwork
  • Professional specialization in the field, whether in a dealership, museum, auction house, or private collection

The program requires no prior knowledge of the field. Download the Semester Prospectus.

The Details
  • Course Dates

    Course Dates

    Spring 2020: January 20, 2020 – May 1, 2020

    "Sotheby’s Institute was the ideal option for me."
    —Rufus Chen (Student)

    Hear from previous students about their experience with the course.
  • Structure, Teaching Methods And Assignments

    Structure, Teaching Methods And Assignments

    Focusing primarily, but by no means exclusively, on the major areas of Southern Asia (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan) and East Asia (China, Japan, Korea), the course is structured in two units.

    The first unit, ‘Themes, Iconographies and Cultural Contexts’, aims to deliver a broad introduction to key themes in Asian art that underpin its development, such as iconography, ritual and belief, court culture, text and inscription, exploring specific examples from ancient times through to art produced up to the nineteenth century. The operations of the Asian art market will be introduced throughout the unit with visits to specialist dealers and auction houses.

    The second unit, ‘Modern Asian Art and its Markets’, aims to give a broad introduction to key themes in Asian art in the modern period, exploring specific examples through lectures, seminars, exhibitions and visits. Concentrating on the past hundred years up to the most recent developments in Asia, students will be able to explore the background and cultural contexts of Asian art whilst gaining knowledge of its specialist markets operating within the international art world at a regional and global level. The operations of the Asian art market will be continued in this unit through visits to galleries and auction houses focusing on modern and contemporary art, with added visits to exhibitions, events and artists’ talks.

    The course will explore Asian art from an object-based perspective, so that students can be familiarized with specific forms of Asian art through encounters with key examples held in museum collections and galleries. Therefore, a series of weekly lectures will be complemented by visits to museums, institutions and galleries. Students will gain first hand experience through talks with gallerists, auction house specialists and collectors dealing in Asian art as well as talks by artists from Asia.

    Students are assessed by a combination of visual analysis tests, oral presentations, essays, student-led seminars, exhibition reviews and a commercial sale project.

    Click here to download a printable version.
  • Sample Topics

    Sample Topics

    • Introduction to art of South and South East Asia

    • Introduction to the Asian art market

    • Key concepts in Hindu and Buddhist art

    • Sculpture in South and South East Asia

    • Himalayan and Tibetan sculpture and painting

    • Mughal court art

    • A history of ornament in Asian art

    • Persian painting

    • Miniature painting in South Asia

    • ‘What is Asian art?’ Examining its boundaries, parameters and geographical reach

    • How to research Asian art objects - visual and cultural analysis through reading and observation

    • Movements and influences in Asian art: regions, styles and iconographies

    • Key themes in Asian art: ancient ritual art (funerary/tomb art), Buddhism, Hinduism, secular and religious art forms, mythologies, court art, trading routes

    • Modernism and postmodernism in Asian art in the twentieth century

    • The Asian art market: history and development from the twentieth century to the present

    • Collecting Asian art

    • Exhibitions of Asian art in the global context

    • Asian art in the diaspora

    • Westernisation of Asian art in the twentieth century

    • Nationalism and its effect on Asian art

    • Contemporary East Asian art

    • Asian art as an emergent market

    • Asian art worlds: art districts, private museums and cultural development in Asia

    • Colonialism and contemporary art discourses

    • Indian Contemporary Art

    • Colonial art and Modernism

  • Field Trips And Study Visits

    Field Trips And Study Visits

    A four-day field trip to Paris and Brussels features visits to the Guimet Museum, which contains one of the largest and most precious collections of Asian art outside of Asia; the Art Brussels art fair; and other collections of Asian art.

    London is a major center for Asian art and culture. A wide variety of faculty-led visits to museums and galleries forms an integral part of the learning experience and enables students to gain a direct understanding of the art dealt with in the course.

    Sample venues:

    • British Museum (Hotung Gallery, Percival David Foundation Gallery)

    • British Museum depository, Blythe House

    • Victoria and Albert Museum (Jameel Gallery, T. Tsui gallery)

    • Sotheby’s Auction House (Chinese Department, Islamic Department)

    • Grosvenor Gallery, Contemporary Indian Art

    • Pace Gallery, Liang Yuanwei

    • Victoria Miro Gallery

    • Simon Ray, Indian & Islamic Art

    • Asia House

    • West End galleries (e.g. Eskenazi, Roger Keverne, Jonathan Tucker)

  • Credits And Validation

    Credits And Validation

    The program is validated by The University of Manchester, one of the UK’s leading universities. Students who complete the program successfully will gain 60 University of Manchester undergraduate credits.
    This generally translates to 16 undergraduate credits or 12 graduate credits in the US system and 30 credits in the European (ECTS) system. Students currently enrolled at other colleges or universities should be aware that transfer of credit is always made at the discretion of the accepting institution. Therefore, applicants should confirm the feasibility of credit transfer with faculty advisors at their home school in advance of registration.
  • Faculty


    Viv Lawes – Course Leader
    Julia Hutt Consultant Lecturer, East Asian Art

    Visiting speakers in previous semesters have included:
    Miranda Bruce-Mitford – Lecturer in Mughal and Ottoman Art
    Rachel Hyman – Senior specialist in Chinese Art, Bonhams
    Philip Tinari – Director Ullens Centre Beijing
    Simon Kirby – East Asia Affiliate, Victoria Miro Gallery, Asia sales.
    Jonathan Tucker – Proprietor, Jonathan Tucker Antiques
    Sarah Callaghan – Publisher, Asian Art Newspaper
    Ishrat Kanga – Deputy Director, Indian art department, Sotheby’s
    John Gittings – Writer and journalist
    Jungeun Lee – Chinese fine art department, Sotheby’s
    Sylvain Levy – Collector, DSL Collection, Paris
    Partha Mitter – Art historian, modern Indian art
    Qu Leilei – Artist, Chinese painting and calligraphy
    Mary Ginsberg – British Museum curator
    Aurogeeta Das – Expert on Indian art
    Virginie Syn – Managing Director International, Pearl Lam Galleries
    Wang Chunchen – Curator CAFA Museum, Beijing
    Jane Portal – Keeper, Asian department, British Museum
    Pamela Kember – Head of Arts and Learning, Asia House
    Shezad Dawood – Artist
    Faiza Butt – Artist
    Marko Daniel – Curator of Public Programmes, Tate Modern
  • Admission To The Program

    Admission To The Program

    There are no formal admission requirements except a good level of English language competence (a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 or TOEFL score of 78 IBT). Although no prior knowledge is required, the Institute offers places to motivated students with a passion for art and the art world. Applicants are interviewed in person or by phone. Our students are of all ages and come from a wide variety of educational and professional backgrounds. The international make-up of the student body at Sotheby’s Institute of Art generates a rich and dynamic learning environment.
  • Program Fees

    Program Fees

    Spring 2020:
    Full-time: £8,500
    Part-time: £4,400
    Trip abroad: £990

    If you are enrolled as a part-time student, you can request to join the study trip abroad even if it falls in the period you are not studying. Please contact Federica Galoppo, Semester Programme Manager at to indicate your interest and add the travel fees to the payment when you settle the balance of your tuition fees.

    Click here to read Terms and Conditions.

    Click here to apply.
  • Contact And Request Information

    Contact And Request Information

    For further information, please contact: or Request Information
    T +44 (0)20 7462 3221

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