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MA History of Art (Modern and Contemporary Art)

Interpret art and forms of cultural production in the modern and contemporary era​

Year of entry: 2023 (September)

Length

1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2023 (semester dates)

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Modern and contemporary art has great cultural significance for our lives today. Numerous galleries and museums globally specialise in these works, offering diverse definitions of modernity and the contemporary era.

Develop your ability to analyse images, art and architecture in a conceptual way; this is an increasingly valuable skill in a contemporary society with innovative technologies for visual research and communication.

Our flexible course enables you to study a wide variety of works ranging from painting, sculpture and architecture, to photography, installation, and performance art, and to also engage with new media and the digital world. 

You’ll go on field trips for practical experience, and to benefit from Yorkshire’s strong modern and contemporary art presence. The Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Henry Moore Institute are all within easy reach.

We have developed successful partnerships with a range of modern art museums and galleries, which will enrich your studies and may offer you placement opportunities and privileged access to collections.

Course content

You play an active role in building your degree, furthering your established or emerging specialisms and designing research projects. You can study works of art from the nineteenth century to the contemporary, or focus on a specific period, issue, or media.

The course enables you to develop advanced skills in verbal and written communication, and effective project management. You’ll acquire a high level of expertise in visual analysis and art historical research through object-focused study and an intensively researched MA dissertation.

You also have the option to develop your interdisciplinary interests by taking modules in related academic disciplines such as history, literature, archaeology, philosophy, sociology and via the Centre for Modern Studies.

Our expert academic staff support you every step of the way through personalised, small-group teaching, individual tutorials and field trips.

At least two of your option modules, your research skills module and your dissertation must be completed on Modern and Contemporary Art. You can either specialise entirely in this area, or select up to two option modules from other fields.

Modules

You’ll study artworks from geographically diverse regions. You’ll engage with the international rise of pop art in the 1960s, to the arts of the Americas, and western and eastern European art from the early twentieth century to the present day. 

Core modules

Option modules 

You will also study four option modules. In previous years, options have covered topics such as:

The options available to you will be confirmed later in the year. For further information, please get in touch.

Interdisciplinary options

You can choose a limited number of modules from those offered by other humanities departments at York and by our centres.

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.
Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.

Dissertation

You'll complete your dissertation with the support of your academic supervisor. The dissertation will be up to 15,000 words.

Recent dissertation topics have included:

  • Spatial politics of display in art in the late 20th century
  • Romanian art of the early 20th century and inter-war years: constructing and transforming national identity?
  • Richard Wright: contemporary wall-painting and the depiction of space
  • Interaction and interpretation in the branded museum in the twenty-first Century: a critical analysis of the presentation of Barbara Hepworth and her works and the construction of visual identities in contemporary museum practice
  • Resistant to representation: queer desire and the enslaved subject in the work of Glenn Ligon and Isaac Julien
  • Mapping the works of Beatriz Milhazes and interpreting her practice with styles from Brazil, North America and Europe

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Demonstrate in-depth understanding of current research, theoretical approaches, context, sources and advanced scholarship at the forefront of art historical studies, as relevant to chosen programme (Depth of Knowledge)
  • Synthesise information in a sophisticated and mature fashion and critically analyse a wide range of materials by rigorously applying observational, descriptive, analytical and methodological skills, as relevant to chosen programme (Methodological Rigor)
  • Formulate independent research questions stemming from the accurate location and evaluation of archival, written, and visual sources and informed by knowledge of scholarly arguments and relevant disciplinary approaches, as relevant to chosen programme (Originality)
  • Analyse and critique the assumptions, theoretical principles and the use of evidence employed in present and past scholarship and situate them within larger art historical dynamics, as relevant to chosen programme (Critical Evaluation)
  • Confidently present relevant information and sophisticated arguments verbally and visually to a high professional standard to a range of academic and other audiences (Communication and Digital Literacy)
    Initiate, conduct, and take responsibility for independent research projects, drawing on skills honed by graduate-level research training (Project Management).
I am always interested in art and I was fascinated by the discussion of modernity during undergraduate study as an English major. I chose York because I really appreciated the flexibility to combine modules from different paths and different departments together.
Yayi, MA History of Art

Read more about the course from Yayi.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2023/24

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £9,990£22,250
Part-time (2 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.
£4,995£11,125

Students on a Student Visa (formerly Tier 4 Visa) are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study.

  • UK (home) fees may increase in subsequent years (up to a maximum of 2%).
  • International fees may increase in subsequent years in line with the prevailing Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate (up to a maximum of 10%).

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status.

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2023/24 throughout the year.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Funding opportunities

Department scholarship information

A wide range of funding opportunities includes placements with funding from the Department's partnership studentships with museums and galleries, AHRC-funded studentships offered via the White Rose College of Arts and Humanities, departmental studentships, overseas scholarships, travel fellowships, and funding for students with specific research interests.

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

Each option module is taught by weekly two-hour seminars. You'll have the opportunity to go on field-trips organised by the Department to view art and architecture, these will be an integral part of your learning.

You'll be taught with lectures, seminars and one-to-one meetings with your lecturer or supervisor. You'll have six hours on average per week of classes. 

You'll study independently for 31-33 hours per week on average. This time gives you space to read widely and develop your thoughts on specialised topics.

We offer an extensive programme of research seminars and events which are an invaluable way to engage with different aspects of your subject, along with discussing module themes with your peers, and the staff weekly office hours.

Facilities

You'll be part of the vibrant interdisciplinary Humanities Research Centre and as a History of Art student you'll also have access to extensive resources. You'll be able to attend related lectures, conferences or site visits offered by the Modern and Contemporary Research Cluster, and you'll benefit from our close links to the Centre for Modern Studies.

Teaching location

You will be based in the Department of History of Art on Campus West.

Most of your contact hours will be in Vanbrugh College, with some additional teaching on Campus West and King's Manor in the city.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

You'll submit a 4,000 word essay per option module. For the Research Skills module you'll produce a dissertation portfolio as your assessment. You'll also complete a dissertation.

Dryad sculpture Austin Wright
MIMA

Careers and skills

We offer amazing partnerships and placements with numerous museums and galleries that will help you in your future career. We work with the National Gallery, Tate, the V&A, and York Museums Trust. We have excellent relationships with regional museums, galleries and country houses— including the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Castle Howard, the Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and the Henry Moore Institute. Our collaborations will support your learning and research through modules jointly designed with the partnership institution, and with opportunities for exclusive partnership studentships, work experience and privileged access to collections. The course prepares you for higher research degrees and a range of possible careers. Read about some of our alumni and where their degree has taken them.

Career opportunities

  • Curator/Digital curator
  • Heritage manager
  • Conservationist
  • Collections manager
  • Marketing officer
  • Art administrator

Transferable skills

  • The ability to analyse and interpret information from different sources
  • Intellectual independence and autonomy
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Applying and adapting methodologies appropriate to your own research
  • Delivering projects to meet time constraints

Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent. We welcome students who have previously studied History of Art, but also those from other backgrounds. Applicants below 2:1 or equivalent will be considered on condition of an interview with the programme leader
Other qualifications and experience We will consider applications from mature students or applicants without formal academic qualifications if you have substantial related experience. We may ask you for an interview in this instance.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

Additional requirements

You will need to submit an example of written work with your application. Please see our guidance on submitting written work.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Minimum requirement
IELTS 6.5, minimum 6.0 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 176, minimum 169 in each component
Duolingo 120, minimum 105 in all other components
LanguageCert SELT B2 with 33/50 in each component
TOEFL 87, minimum of 21 in each component
Trinity ISE III Merit in all requirements

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

If you've not met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current English language test scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.

Applying

You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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