Course information

Length

1 year full-time or 2 years part-time

Course overview

The MA Contemporary Art Theory is for those with a special interest in contemporary art, and an aptitude for theoretical work in the subject.

Why study MA Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths?

  • This degree explores a range of theoretical perspectives that shape attitudes towards visual art in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
  • You’ll be encouraged to explore conceptually and creatively the ways in which contemporary artistic practice and critical theory interrelate.
  • You’ll expand your knowledge of contemporary artistic developments and deepen your understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of academic discourses on visual culture.
  • The programme draws from the fields of performance studies, art history, philosophy, museology, queer theory, post-colonial studies and cultural studies in addressing the critical challenges posed by artistic practice, and you’ll be able to focus on an aspect that particularly interests you.
  • You’ll take part in an assessed symposium, which provides you with a chance to present your dissertation topic at an early stage in order to define and progress your final project.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact the MA Programme leader, Dr. Ayesha Hameed

What you'll study

Overview

The programme comprises a non-assessed introductory module, the Core Module (comprising 4 blocks that thematically vary from year to year and of which students choose 2), and four assessed components: two Special Subjects, the MA Symposium and the MA Dissertation. Students also attend the Visual Cultures Public Programme of lectures and other events. You have the option of auditing another special subject should you wish to do so, subject to availability and in agreement with the course tutor.

The taught part of the programme runs from the end of September to the end of March, with additional guest lectures or workshops in May and June. It offers a framework to help you focus and develop your own understanding of contemporary art practice and its wider cultural significance. It is designed to develop your understanding of a range of critical and theoretical approaches that inform the heterogeneous field of visual art production whilst, at the same time, enabling you to identify and prepare the area of independent research you will carry out in your dissertation project.

Thematic pathways through the MA will be offered on a yearly basis. These will connect the annually changing themes of the core courses with the annual roster of special subjects. In any specific year three themes will be operative. They may include Global Arts; Sound; Politics and Aesthetics; Performance and Live Art; Critical Thought.

Full-time students attend on Thursday and one other day each week (determined by the choice of special subject); part-time students attend on one day each week in the first year and on Thursday in the second year.

Core module

Module title Credits
  The Common Core Module: DEL: Readings/Processes 0 credits

Special subjects

Special subjects are in-depth taught modules based on the current research interests of staff. They enable you to focus on an aspect of contemporary art, cultural theory or contemporary thought that particularly interests you.

Special subjects currently include:

Module title Credits
  Curating and Ethics 45 credits
  Reading the Performative 45 credits
  Sex, Gender, Species 45 credits
  Geopoetics 45 credits
  Judgement and Creation 45 credits
  Transforming Critical Practices 45 credits
  Dissonant Images: Questions of Evidence 45 credits
  Postcapitalist Desire 45 credits
  Spatial Biopolitics 45 Credits

Independent research 

From the end of March, you will start independent research on a subject of your own choosing. At the end of the spring term, you will submit your dissertation proposal and be assigned a dissertation tutor who will support your independent dissertation research and writing activities in an advisory capacity.

Module title Credits
  MA Contemporary Art Theory Dissertation 60 credits

Two-day MA Symposium (oral presentation on dissertation topic) (30 credits)
The MA Symposium provides you with the opportunity, fairly early on in the research/writing process, to present a worked up and focused investigation of your dissertation topic or some aspect of it. Your presentation will be formally assessed. Presenting on your dissertation research at this stage is invaluable for enabling you to define your project and, through verbal feedback and discussion, to progress your thinking. Assessment: one oral presentation in early June (20 minutes, plus 10 minute discussion).

Assessment

Visual Cultures assessment are 100% coursework. Normally this consists of essays, sometimes accompanied by creative projects, group projects, multi-media projects, presentations, symposia, reviews, and studio work.

Download the programme specification, for the 2019-20 intake. If you would like an earlier version of the programme specification, please contact the Quality Office.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.

Entry requirements

You should normally have, or expect to gain, an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard in art history, fine art, another studio-based practice, arts administration and related activities, or a humanities discipline other than art history which demonstrates your ability to undertake work at Masters level.

You don’t necessarily need a formal academic qualification in art history: we welcome applications from prospective students who do not meet the standard entrance requirements but can demonstrate appropriate knowledge and experience from outside academia in the world of work.

If you have little or no formal training in art history or a related humanities discipline, you may need to take a preparatory year of study on the Graduate Diploma in Contemporary Art History. You may also be required to attend an interview.

International qualifications

We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

If English isn’t your first language, you will need an IELTS score (or equivalent English language qualification) of 6.5 with a 6.5 in writing and no element lower than 6.0 to study this programme. If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

Fees, funding & scholarships

Annual tuition fees

These are the fees for students starting their programme in the 2019/20 academic year.

  • Home/EU - full-time: £7750
  • Home/EU - part-time: £3875
  • International - full-time: £15810

Please note that EU fees are being fixed at the above rate for 2019 entry. The fee level will be fixed for the duration of your programme.

If your fees are not listed here, please check our postgraduate fees guidance or contact the Fees Office, who can also advise you about how to pay your fees.

If you're an international student interested in studying part-time, please contact our Admissions Team to find out if you're eligible.

If you are looking to pay your fees please see our guide to making a payment.

Additional costs

In addition to your tuition fees, you'll be responsible for any additional costs associated with your course, such as buying stationery and paying for photocopying. You can find out more about what you need to budget for on our study costs page.

There may also be specific additional costs associated with your programme. This can include things like paying for field trips or specialist materials for your assignments. Please check the programme specification for more information.

Funding opportunities

Find out more about postgraduate fees and explore funding opportunities. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have:

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online

           Please see our guidance on writing a postgraduate statement

  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory)

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October from students wanting to start the following September. There is no application deadline, but we encourage you to apply sooner rather than later while there are still places on the course, and to allow time for student visa applications if applicable. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an earlier application deadline. 

Selection process

Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally, we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.

Find out more about applying.

Careers

Many of our MA students have gone on to MPhil/PhD study, not only in art history and visual cultures, but also in related fields such as philosophy, cultural studies and literature. Careers obtained by recent graduates include: artist, curator/collections manager, journal editor, lecturers, researcher, and roles in TV and production, public relations, and rights and marketing.

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths.

What our students say

Alison Hugill

"I think the mix of teaching and student diversity helped me to apply the more abstract ideas I was learning to actual art-making processes."

As managing editor of Berlin Art Link Magazine, an online, independent contemporary art magazine, I commission, edit and publish regular content, including critical reviews, studio visits, interviews and announcements about contemporary art in Berlin and internationally.

I am also an independent curator and freelance writer. I am Contributing Editor of Momus magazine, and contribute to Sleek Magazine, AQNB, uncube, Rhizome, Archinect and Artsy. I have also curated a 5-year project in Bergen, Norway, looking at site-specific and public space art interventions supplemented with a theory workshop.

Before attending the MA program at Goldsmiths I studied Philosophy. It was really helpful for me to be in an environment where many students were engaged in art practice and curation, while still having the opportunity to work with a professor (Alexander Garcia) who valued critical thinking and the philosophical/political importance of aesthetics. I think the mix of teaching and student diversity helped me to apply the more abstract ideas I was learning to actual art-making processes.

I co-host a feminist talk radio show on Berlin Community Radio called Hystereo and I am part of an art collective, working at the crossroads of theory and design, called Antiforum.

Elena

I would describe the general atmosphere on Campus as liberal and supporting, as far as every opinion puts on the table.

"I would say that a vibrant widespread community is a distinguishable Goldsmith's characteristic, which embraces not only current residents, but alumni as well. Since the College establishment, professional network has been constantly expanding over the years. As a result, a strong supportive community has been developed across the globe. I feel myself as a part of this body which joins people regardless of race and nationality.

Before studying at Goldsmiths, I worked in the art industry for 3.5 years, but I always keep dreaming to progress my study. After a while, I found myself approaching the course in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths. I really enjoy spending my time with classmates by sharing knowledge and experience. I would describe the general atmosphere at Campus as liberal and supporting as far as every opinion puts on the table. In my course, the majority of students came from all over the world that creates a very diversified aura in the classes. I have never experienced anything like this before, that makes my residency authentic. I think multiplicity is something very special about London, but nevertheless, it takes time to get used to live in a such multicultural and extremely competitive environment. You should be very mobile and fast, plan your activities in advance as the luscious pieces (i.e ticket events) are taken rapidly. High speed and restlessness shape London’s look, and if you want to succeed, then run faster.

I have not manage to build any strategic plan upon my graduation yet, but I will go back to Moscow, and probably start looking for a job, or an inspiring internship."

Similar programmes

Graduate Diploma in Contemporary Art History

This Diploma has been designed as a conversion programme for graduates of other disciplines who wish to carry out research at higher levels in the fields of modern and contemporary art history and visual cultures.

MA Research Architecture

The MA Research Architecture is for graduates from a range of disciplines who want to examine how architecture can engage with questions of contemporary culture, politics, media, ecology and justice and question whether spatial practice can become a form of research.

MPhil/PhD Curatorial/Knowledge

This programme is aimed at researchers who are already working in the curatorial field and are interested in theorising their practice.

MPhil/PhD Research Architecture

This MPhil/PhD programme is aimed at practitioners of architecture and other related spatial practices who would like to develop a sustained multi-year practice-led research project.

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