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Bernard Vere, Director of the MA in Fine and Decorative Art and Design program, tells us why it's essential for students to travel and examine masterpieces up close in order to prepare for a career in the international art world.

From paintings and furniture through to collage and post-war design, the distinctive character of this Master’s program is the emphasis on first-hand study of a wealth of art objects, whether at a museum, an auction house, an art fair, a studio, or a private collection. You will learn a great deal from our specialist faculty, but also from auction house experts, dealers, curators and collectors. World-class galleries function as our seminar rooms. We study masterpieces up close here in London, as well as in Venice, Paris and at the TEFAF Maastricht art fair.

“World-class galleries function as our seminar rooms”

An important aspect of the course is learning about the techniques of production of the objects of study and very often these can only be appreciated when you see the work in front of you. In Venice, for example, we visit internationally famous museums including the Accademia, Ca’ Rezzonico and the Museo Correr, but we also examine Old Master paintings in local churches. Modern masters are superbly represented in the Venice-based collection of Peggy Guggenheim and in previous years we have enjoyed a talk from the collection’s director before studying the works in detail. In Paris, we combine visits to museums such as the Pompidou and the d’Orsay with smaller institutions such as the Musée Picasso and the Le Corbusier Foundation.

We also travel to TEFAF in Maastricht, the largest and most prestigious non-contemporary art fair in the world, where students will see museum-quality works by Old and Modern Masters on the stands of leading international art dealers. Before visiting we use our network of contacts to discuss the fair with exhibitors, learning about what they are planning to take and why, and what role TEFAF plays in their annual business.

By studying in this way we are able to equip students with an appreciation of the many contexts in which art and design objects can be found, and a knowledge of both the historical and current art markets, as we trace works from their initial conception to present location.

“The business of art rests on expertise”

The business of art rests on expertise. Underpinning the commercial arts sector are thousands of individual sales, each one of which depends on an in-depth knowledge of the object being traded. Behind every blockbuster exhibition or sale there is a wealth of research: information to be gathered, understood and presented to an audience.

The effectiveness of our object-centered approach can be seen by the career destinations of our graduates, who use the skills learned here in their roles at top auction houses, commercial art dealers, major museums, art consultancies, and other roles across the international art world.

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