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On Sotheby's Institute's London campus, three new electives have been approved and will be added to the curricula, allowing graduate students across all of the Institute's London programs to opt for deeper academic inquiry across a range of topics.

Jonathan Woolfson, Director of Sotheby's Institute of Art-London, says:

"We are very excited to be making changes to our MA programs at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. Covid has changed the art world forever. Although it was something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, in truth it has opened up exciting new opportunities and has reordered social, cultural and political priorities. Technology and art are finally meeting on equal ground; African art has found a global audience; urgent social issues around diversity and climate change are a staple of public debate. This has led us to undertake serious reflection and review of what we teach and why we teach it. We are determined that our programs, both curricular and extra-curricular, will reflect post-pandemic developments so as to equip our students with deep understanding, cutting-edge knowledge and up-to-date skills. This will provide them with the best possible opportunities for successful careers in a transformed and expanded art world.

We are thus offering new teaching in the areas of:
Art and technology
Diversity and inclusion
The politics of cultural property (restitution)
Contemporary African art

The focus of our teaching is more geared towards employability than ever before, as encapsulated in a new Professional Practice unit, and all students will undertake a new unit entitled Art Futures, which explores not only the changes that have recently taken place in the art world but also the process of art world change itself, how it can be predicted and indeed anticipated. Our customary combination of faculty teaching, visiting professional lecturers, site visits, field trips and peer learning ensures that students will emerge with a rigorous and varied understanding of their field of interest and with the confidence to have an impact."

New electives offered in 2022-23

Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies and NFTs
The recent digital transformation of the art market has foregrounded a wide variety of new modes of production, consumption and transaction of cultural objects, which continues to reinvent our understanding of material culture. Through accelerating developments in the fields of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, SFTs and Web 3.0, the current and future identity of the creative industries and how we might reappraise formal definitions of cultural objects remains in a constant state of flux. As a result, participants within this dynamic ecosystem are beginning to involve both traditional art market stakeholders and disruptive innovators. Remaining dynamically attuned and responsive to these digital and technological developments now forms an essential part of the skillset for professional art market participants. This unit adopts a dynamic approach to identifying and evaluating the development and application of new technologies and systems within the broader cultural ecosystem from both the innovators and incumbents participating within the art market. As part of this elective, students are actively encouraged to critically examine and scrutinize the evolving identity and future sustainability of the new Art Market 3.0.

Sustainability and the Art World
Sustainability is a topic that gets to the heart of how the future art world will look. As awareness of climate change, resource scarcity, pollution, and social inequality rises, art organizations all over the world are increasingly expected to revise their principle of operations and develop new business strategies. In recent years various groups and coalitions have been formed to discuss how the art world might respond to the climate crisis. The ability to promote sustainable development has become an essential skill for art professionals in both public and commercial sectors.

This unit takes an interdisciplinary approach and examines both the research and current actions in the field of art world sustainability. It acquaints students with the best practice, but also questions whether any substantial change is possible in the industry which revolves around international shipment of artworks and movement of people. The unit challenges students to think beyond the traditional topics of sustainability and allows them to seize the opportunities and overcome the challenges specific to the global art world.

Contemporary African Art
This unit offers a critical perspective on the notion of an ‘African’ category of contemporary art, raising questions around identity, belonging and the material and imaginative possibilities of ‘contemporary African art’. The lectures set out the conceptual and methodological frameworks through which to understand this nebulous categorization, which loosely comprises work from the postcolonial era produced in any of the fifty-four individual countries on the continent or by artists across the African Diaspora and forms an ascending, vibrant art market. The course builds knowledge of theoretical frameworks such as postcolonial, transnational and sociocultural through detailed case studies of established and emerging artists. Group seminars will encourage debates around the framing of contemporary African art within global art world structures, talks by creatives will inspire student engagement with this lively art scene, and object focussed group work will examine contemporary African artists’ varied use of media and draw out the conceptual, political and social conditions that underpin artistic production. The unit traces the historical trade links which connect African traders with blue chip New York galleries, to better understand this complex, international and culturally hybrid art market, drawing attention to the cosmopolitan spaces where contemporary African art is validated. Students will consider decolonial approaches which aim to debunk cliched tropes of African art production and unpack the grand narratives of modernism as emanating from the Western academy.

These new electives will be available in the 2022-23 Academic Year beginning this autumn and join existing elective coursework including: Art and Authentication, Art and Luxury, Art Photography and the Market, Curating Contemporary Art, Digital Technologies, Ethics, Laws and the Art Trade, Art and Patronage Today, The Market for Western Antiquities and Old Masters, Modernism and Its Markets, Work Placement, Art World Logistics and Operations.

Furthermore, the curriculum for all graduate students now includes two core units: Art Futures’ explores current and future changes in the art world with a particular focus on technology, the ethics of cultural property, inclusion and sustainability. It prepares students for the fast pace of change which will continue to characterize the art world in the 21st century. Professional Practice helps students develop a series of key professional skills for deployment in art world careers.

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