Making Art History

Module code: MU7003

The focus of this module is on you and how you become an art specialist. The module begins by reflecting on the knowledge we each bring to our professional lives: art historical knowledge, practical art experience, marketing skills, scientific knowledge, archaeological experience and educational training. As art professionals we need to actively build upon this knowledge, and this module begins this process.

You'll look at artwork as a physical object (even if it is digital or a performance), and consider its materials, technologies of production, as well as its associated contexts and histories. You'll examine the processes of collecting and disposal that give it a privileged place in society. 

The artwork exists in the museum or contemporary art institution because people have exercised their expertise and taste. But artworks also find their way into these institutions through less scrupulous means, and may reflect ethnic and gender bias, acts of censorship and exclusion. Therefore, it's important that we engage critically with art histories so as to challenge the biases of the past.

As part of this process you'll develop critical research skills so that you can interrogate the art institution, artistic production and the wider art world. This will also involve looking at how professional ethics, artist's interventions and institutional critique can create a more open and engaged institution. This module will help you to realise the creative potential of knowledge - by becoming expert you'll be able to act within, and challenge the institutional world introduced in Locating the Art Institution.

Topics covered

  • Developing expertise
  • Knowing the art object
  • Critical art histories: social critique, feminism, post-colonialism, post-nationalism
  • Collecting, disposal, repatriation
  • Codes of ethics and censorship
  • Socially engaged practice, institutional critique and artist's interventions
  • Research methods: reading exhibitions, institutional histories, studio visits
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