"I can truthfully say that during the 70s there was no place in London to see more interesting art than at Goldsmiths."
This degree aims to equip you with creative, interpretive, critical and analytical skills, so that you can participate in and contribute to the expanding field of contemporary art.
Successful completion of three A-levels, Baccalaureate or equivalent; portfolio of work.
Successful completion of a Foundation, BTEC or equivalent (completed by the end of the academic year preceding entry).
After submitting your application you'll be asked to upload a portfolio online. If selected for interview, you'll be asked to bring along a portfolio of recent work. Find out more about the electronic portfolio requirements.
See entrance requirements for general and alternative qualifications.
If your first language is not English, please check our English Language requirements.
The main purpose of the degree is to teach you how to make art and to evaluate different critical approaches to your own practice, through integrated Studio Practice and Critical Studies courses. The programme aims to support your development and creativity and to help you acquire independent learning skills. This approach requires you to be committed, to thrive on constructive criticism exchanged between staff and students, and to participate in discussing your own work and that of others.
The degree structure enables you to develop your work through exploring selected media and approaches, including: drawing, painting, constructed textiles, film, installation, performance, photography, printed textiles, printmaking, sculpture, stitch, fabric and video. You can specialise in one or more media throughout the degree. Studio teaching is enhanced by technical support, which introduces you to techniques relevant to the development of your work.
This degree is divided into three levels, each of which corresponds to a year of study. This programme consists of two interdependent elements: Studio Practice and Critical Studies. You must pass both elements to progress to the next level.
The first year is the beginning of three years of intensive studio and research laboratory practice. Each year you are allocated a studio space that forms the focal point of your activities. In the final year you mount an exhibition of your Studio Practice for assessment, which is then open to the public.
Throughout the programme you'll be taught through individual tutorials in your studio, group tutorials, and mixed-year studio practice presentations. The parallel Critical Studies course is designed to support your practical work in the studios. The lectures and seminars introduce and develop key issues that inform diverse art practices and encourage you to extend your critical faculties and develop your ability to discuss, write about, analyse and judge contemporary art. In the third year you demonstrate your research skills and ability to pursue an argument of your own choice in a dissertation.
Studio practice coursework is continuously assessed through individual tutorials and group seminars. This is complemented by studio presentations at Year 1, viva voce at Year 2, and a final exhibition at Year 3. Critical Studies is assessed through essays (Years 1 and 2) and a dissertation (Year 3).
Studio Practice introduces you to the acquisition of fundamental knowledge and gives you the basic practical skills necessary to initiate your independent research. You'll gain experience of making art as a full-time activity and an awareness of the critical debates and contexts that inform Studio Practice.
Your tutors assess your Studio Practice coursework continuously and offer feedback at the end of the autumn and spring terms. Your work at Level 1 is also assessed through an end-of-year presentation at the summer term.
Critical Studies is delivered through a series of lectures and seminars that examine the key ideas and issues relevant to the ways in which contemporary art practice is made, circulated, judged and understood. You'll analyse the different contexts and the history that informs contemporary art practice, and critically explore the diversity of media, materials and ideas employed by contemporary artists. You'll also be introduced to critical approaches to study and have more opportunities for discussion in the studio. This course is assessed through essays submitted at the end of the first and second terms.
Studio Practice in Year 2 begins to deal with more complex issues and the selective application of acquired knowledge and practical skills. It is a period of synthesis, leading to a deeper understanding of your practice.
Your tutors assess your Studio Practice coursework continuously and offer feedback at the end of the autumn and spring terms. You make a presentation of selected work for assessment as a viva voce in the summer term, where you'll be asked to discuss your work in depth.
Critical Studies deepens your understanding of the ideas and issues introduced in Year 1 through seminars and independent study. Seminar options may include: Postcolonial Identities and Representation; Art and the Everyday; The Right To The City; Utopias in Contemporary Art; Post-Criticalities; Acts of Appropriation; The Film Effect – Moving Image Art in Context. This course is assessed through essays submitted at the end of the first and second term.
Studio Practice in Year 3 supports an independent, self-motivated practice and your potential to work as an artist. You'll demonstrate a high degree of understanding, critical awareness and independent judgement. At this level you'll consolidate your practical and critical skills in preparation for the Final Exhibition and further independent practice.
Your tutors assess your Studio Practice coursework continuously and offer you feedback at the end of the autumn and spring terms. The Final Exhibition of your Studio Practice is assessed at the end of the summer term. The final exhibitions are then open to the public as a Degree Show.
In Critical Studies you select a subject for independent research based on your understanding of your practice and the concepts explored throughout the degree. This is developed through a series of tutorials leading to a dissertation, in which you should demonstrate your research skills and ability to pursue an argument of your own choice. You present your dissertation for assessment at the start of the second term.
On this degree you'll be taught through intensive studio and research laboratory practice, tutorials, and mixed-year studio practice presentations. This will enhance your academic knowledge of the subject, improve your communication skills, and develop your technical and creative skills. You'll also attend lectures and seminars where you'll hear about ideas and concepts related to specific topics, and where you'll be encouraged to discuss and debate the issues raised.
But this is just a small proportion of what we expect you to do on the degree. For each hour of taught learning, we expect you to complete another 5-6 hours of independent study. This typically involves carrying out research and producting work. This emphasis on independent learning is very important at Goldsmiths.
Each year you'll be allocated a studio space that will be the focal point of your activities. All the studios are mixed, with students from all three levels sharing the studio spaces, providing valuable peer support. You will determine the nature of your practice and, with guidance from the tutorial staff, be encouraged to work in any medium that you choose. Studio teaching is enhanced by technical support, which introduces you to techniques relevant to the practical development of your work. You'll also be expected to research the appropriate context and debates around your chosen area of working practice.
In Studio Practice each year you're assigned a tutor who will be part of a group of staff with overall responsibility for supporting and assessing your progress. Throughout the programme you will be taught through individual tutorials in your studio space and mixed year group presentations and discussions. This enables a valuable exchange of ideas between all students on the programme.
In Critical Studies, lectures and seminars will introduce and develop key issues, which inform contemporary art practices and encourage you to extend your ability to discuss, analyse and write about contemporary art. This provides a framework for judgement so that you can develop your work in the critical context of art practice.
The programme seeks to engage and extend your critical faculties as a practising artist and to enable you to develop your ability to talk about, analyse and judge contemporary art. You'll be taught through a systematic programme of lectures, seminars and tutorials. Contemporary Critical Studies takes a distinct form in each year that allows you to work towards developing an independent research programme.
Find out more about these learning and teaching approaches.
All undergraduate programmes in the Department of Art aim to equip you with the necessary skills to develop independent thought and confidence in your practice. These skills will also be of use in other career paths you may wish to follow. You'll develop the following transferable skills:
We provide you with a series of opportunities for specialist advice and further information to complement your studies and prepare you for professional life after graduation. Our students actively seek opportunities to exhibit their work beyond Goldsmiths through external networks while they are here.
Many graduates have continued to be successful, practising artists long after graduating, winning major prizes and exhibiting around the world. The Turner Prize shortlist has consistently included at least one of our former undergraduates, including Angela de la Cruz in 2010. Six of the prize-winners have studied here: Grenville Davey, Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, Gillian Wearing, Steve McQueen and Mark Wallinger.
The interdisciplinary nature of the programme will enable you to work in a variety of fields (eg media, museums, education, the music business, and academia) and progress to a variety of careers, including:
We work with a network of artists, curators, galleries and museums both in London and internationally to create an inspiring and dynamic place in which to study and develop an artistic practice. Many graduates of Goldsmiths Art Department are among the most recognised names working in art today.
The Turner Prize shortlist has consistently included at least one of our former undergraduates, including Angela de la Cruz in 2010. Six of the prize-winners have studied here – Grenville Davey, Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, Gillian Wearing, Steve McQueen and Mark Wallinger. See the full list of Alumni Turner Prize winners.
The latest Research Assessment Exercise (2008) confirmed that Goldsmiths’ Department of Art has retained its position as one of the top Fine Art research departments in the country.
Goldsmiths’ Art students form an important part of the stimulating environment that is the London art scene. The Department’s international reputation enables it to establish and maintain links with many of the world’s most prestigious institutions and university Art departments. This, together with the cosmopolitan nature of the student body, provides unique opportunities to develop cross-cultural collaborative projects.
More information about the department can be found on the Department of Art's pages.
Our spectacular Ben Pimlott Building provides purpose-built teaching space on campus, including some of the art studios, lecture theatres, and digital media labs. The studios benefit from generous floor-to-ceiling windows. The department provides space for:
You also have access to College-wide facilities.
All students have their own studio space. This is a place in which to work, to meet and spend time with other students, and to have tutorials. It's also a base from which to organise your work in other parts of the college – such as the various research laboratories, the workshops, and the library – as well as your research visits to galleries and exhibitions in London.
The studios are occupied by students from all three years of the course. This arrangement maximises opportunities for conversation and exchange, and helps to encourage sharing of knowledge, interest and experience between students.
Further details on our Department of Art facilities and laboratories.
The Department of Art has 47 academic staff. We also have 19 technical staff providing a service from our research laboratories. See a full list of our Art academic staff and their research interests.
Our annual undergraduate degree shows take place in June and are held at Goldsmiths. Admission is free.
Find out more about the Department of Art Open Days.
Emeritus Professor of Fine Art at Goldsmiths
"I can truthfully say that during the 70s there was no place in London to see more interesting art than at Goldsmiths."
In 1973 I came to teach at Goldsmiths and it was extraordinary. At the time the school had a terrible reputation for being anarchic, so my friends commiserated with me for the nightmare that I was stepping into. But Jon Thompson [then Head of Art] was totally passionate about teaching and about art education. Our idea was to completely renew the idea of art education, which was very much Jon’s agenda. We were going to re-invent British art education.
The year I arrived, there were some of the most interesting students I’d ever had. Jon was interested in the wayward students – the difficult, stroppy, slightly crazy people. We were interested in art that wasn’t just defined by painting or sculpture in the traditional sense. There were students doing performance, film or video, writing, installation. At the time this stuff was very speculative, it was a small part of the art world at that time. This was very, very close to the cutting edge of what was going on in the world outside. I can truthfully say that during the 70s there was no place in London to see more interesting art than at Goldsmiths.
My experience of teaching is that I have never been to any art school where I didn’t meet interesting students. But I became aware that I was seeing an exceptional number of very, very interesting people when the YBA's (Young British Artists) were all there at the same time. I tried to mix the students which generated a kind of dialogue amongst them. They were getting used to looking at each other’s work in depth and also being jealous of each other and being competitive in the best possible way. If I did a seminar and Sarah Lucas did something fantastic, then Gary Hume was pissed off because she got all the attention and he wanted it – it’s a normal human thing, but it had an amazing effect. When they left Goldsmiths I was excited by what they were doing and I felt like if I didn’t continue to engage with them and be supportive, it was as though I didn’t mean what I said when I was teaching them. We had so much fun and it was a very enjoyable time. It’s a source of great pleasure and happiness that there is hardly anybody from that time that I don’t think of as a friend, it’s quite extraordinary really.
One of the things that I love about the way Goldsmiths approaches things is that it is student-led and also retroactive. The whole idea is to focus the responsibility on the person themselves rather than a tutor giving a project. When I was teaching I developed a strong sense in myself and a confidence that I could feel when someone was doing work that was appropriate to their inner self. You need time with the person and to get to know them in relation to the work. I could spend unbelievable amounts of time, which I often did, hours and hours over years, getting to know people really well so I had a sense of what their potential was.
BA Fine Art, graduated 1993
Turner Prize-winning artist and filmmaker
Outstanding British artist Steve McQueen made his first films at Goldsmiths, graduating from the BA Fine Art course in 1993. In the same year he made Bear. Documenting an ambiguous encounter between two naked men, one of whom is McQueen himself, the film raised issues about violence, homoeroticism and race. In the years that followed he made more short films, often projecting them onto the walls of an enclosed gallery space, for heightened intimacy.
Then in 1999 he won the Turner Prize for his original and uncompromising approach to film installation and his innovative presentation of work in other media. The organisers commented on McQueen’s ability to “take a simple incident or image and evoke complex emotions and ideas from them”.
During his varied career he has also worked as an official war artist in Iraq (2006), and represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2009. This year he exhibited his largest ever show at the Schaulager in Switzerland to rave reviews.
In recent years McQueen has gained critical acclaim for filmmaking. In 2008 he won a BAFTA and the prestigious Camera D’Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival for Hunger, his feature film about the 1981 Irish hunger strike. He co-wrote and directed Shame (2011), “a powerful plunge into the mania of addiction affliction”.
His latest film, 12 Years a Slave, is already generating Oscars buzz. Based on the 1853 autobiography of Solomon Northup, it brings to life the true story of a free man who was forced into slavery, and has been described by the New Yorker as “easily the greatest film ever made about American slavery”.
Image © Featureflash | Dreamstime.com
BA Fine Art, graduated 2009
"You are given a studio and from day one are expected to begin to work as an artist."
I was born in Hackney, East London, and studied BA Fine Art at Goldsmiths. I graduated in 2009. The Fine Art course at Goldsmiths is completely open. You are not given projects to do or segregated by the medium you choose to work with. Instead you are given a studio and from day one are expected to begin to work as an artist. With support from the tutors and technicians it's totally possible to prepare for a career in the arts, as an artist or curator or whatever you may want to do.
My experiences as a Goldsmiths student enhanced my employment prospects. I am now working as an artist, and just got back from a three-month residency in New York in which I produced a body of work called Pleasure Pieces. I had a studio that I made all of the work in and at the end of the three months I had my first solo show, which was really exciting. The whole point of learning is to help you grow, not necessarily change. It facilitates abilities that already exist. I definitely got a lot out of my time at Goldsmiths.
BA Fine Art, graduated 1969
Margaret Howell has worked across men’s and women’s fashion for the last 40 years and is famed for her classically British take on tailored shirts, duffle coats and lace up shoes. She was awarded a CBE for services to the fashion industry in 2007.
"I wasn’t especially aware of Goldsmiths before my interview” she explains “We only lived in Surrey, but London seemed quite far away and my parents hadn’t visited very often! I remember being very nervous taking my portfolio on the train, and the interview being terrifying. They said something like “you’re very nearly very good” and I came away thinking, “I probably haven’t got this.”
From that inauspicious start, Margaret started to make the most of her course and even won the first year prize, which was £26 “A lot of money in those days! I remember going to a bookshop on Charing Cross Road, and choosing these lovely books. One was to do with the old masters, one was the impressionists, and one was about the pioneers of modern design; I still have them all.”
Life drawing classes proved especially useful “They were tremendous training for understanding proportion. Because of it I can tell when something is half a millimetre off, which is extremely useful in what I do now!” However, it was the extra curricular activities that Goldsmiths offered which proved to be life changing. “The film club, which was put on one evening a week by the Students’ Union, was fantastic– it was great seeing all those early films by people like Fritz Lang and Kurosawa, and I was really inspired by icons like Katherine Hepburn and Louise Brooks – she was so beautiful I put a picture of her on my wall. In the evenings we also used to study subsidiary subjects including architecture. One of the lecturers had just been to Japan and he showed us beautiful slides of the temples. The emptiness and the minimal quality of those buildings really appealed to me.” More...
Lucian Freud, artist
Controversial and uncompromising genius known for his intense realist portraits.
Born in Berlin in 1922, Freud and his family moved to Britain to escape the Nazi regime in 1933, where he grew up and was educated. After a brief stint as a merchant seaman in 1941, he was invalidated out of service and attended Goldsmiths as an art student from 1942-43. His first solo exhibition was in 1944 at London’s Lefevre Gallery, and his career gathered pace when he was awarded a prize for his work Interior at Paddington at the Festival of Britain in 1951, where fellow Goldsmiths alumni Constance Howard was also exhibiting.
His early work has Surrealist influences, and their thinly-painted style was in stark contrast to his mature style that emerged during 1949-54, and produced some of his most recognisable works. He adopted an impasto (thick layer of paint) style, and often devoted thousands of hours to a single work.
The grandson of famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, his sitters often lay naked on a floor, sofa or bed, his portraits exposing the psychological condition of the sitter as much as the physical. One sitter described his final portrait as appearing to ‘reveal secrets – ageing, ugliness, faults – that I imagine…I am hiding from the world…’
Freud’s famous sitters include fellow artist Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth II, and supermodel Kate Moss. Married twice, he was rumoured to have fathered over 40 children with various women, but in reality 14 have been identified. He died in July 2011, and is buried in London’s Highgate Cemetery.
Fine Art graduate Gerry Judah is an acclaimed artist and designer who has created settings for film, theatre, museums and public spaces, and has worked with musicians including Paul McCartney.
Since studying Fine Art at Goldsmiths in the 1970s, Gerry Judah has created settings for the BBC, British Museum, Imperial War Museum, Royal Shakespeare Company and others, and has worked with musicians including Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney.
He has created spectacular sculptures for many car companies including Ferrari, Jaguar and Porsche at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed and has designed bridges in London and Cambridge. He has also had a number of exhibitions of his paintings and sculptures in the UK and overseas and his work is held in many public and private collections.
“I enjoyed my time at Goldsmiths enormously. It wasn’t just art we engaged with, but philosophy, psychology, theatre, and many other interests. I was able to move quite easily between disciplines and be experimental with my work. We all fed off each other. It really felt like we were part of a community of artists.”
"The College truly develops your curiosity, your desire to make the most out of your time and to enjoy the feeling of pushing yourself to the limits of your knowledge."
I took the elevator to sign in before going to my art studio and once inside of it two students started playing the piano. It was one of those hotel elevator melodies. It made me rethink my relation to those kinds of situations - standing in a hotel elevator - that we never really reflect on. When I think about Goldsmiths it is one of the first things that come to my mind: here, everything is questioned from the biggest theories to the smallest quotidian gestures. Your position towards them becomes consciously made choices. The College truly develops your curiosity, your desire to make the most out of your time and to enjoy the feeling of pushing yourself to the limits of your knowledge. It gives you the opportunity to encounter people and ideas that might have a real impact on the way you view the world. As I grew up in different countries of South America I always lacked the feeling of belonging to somewhere. Here I found a space in which to get involved in the construction of a community that aims to learn, experiment and exchange ideas that defy the status quo.
Clive Gardiner, artist and former College Principal
Former Principal of the College who changed the way art was taught at Goldsmiths forever
Muralist, poster designer and illustrator Clive Gardiner trained at the Slade School of Fine Art and the Royal Academy before eventually taking up a teaching position at Goldsmiths, where he later became Principal (1929-1957). He was instrumental in convincing the college to start embracing the world of modern art, inspired by his love for the paintings of Cezanne, Derain and Picasso.
Always keen to expose his students to the new artistic ground being broken throughout Europe, he encouraged those under his charge to consider commercial art and design as equal to fine art, a radical view at a time when art education focused almost exclusively on the study of Old Masters. After Gardiner’s death, friend and former student Graham Sutherland was moved to comment: “Everything worthwhile I learnt, I learnt from him.”
Gardiner’s best-known works include his cubism-inspired posters for London Transport, but he was also one of the leading poster artists associated with Shell Petroleum, and worked on murals for the 1938 Glasgow Empire Exhibition, the Students’ Union at the University of London and Sir John Benn’s Hostel and Toynbee Hall in London’s East End.
During the Second World War he advised on the design and décor of the Ministry of Food’s British Restaurants, which were run by local authorities and provided a cheap place to eat for those who had been bombed out of their homes.
In later years he turned his hand to watercolours and oil landscapes. The Arts Council held a memorial exhibition of his work in 1963.
Former BA Art Practice (now BA Fine Art) student
Content last modified: 31 Oct 2013
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