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Art History and Theory - MA

Course Description

Our MA Art History and Theory is ideal if you are interested in working in academia, the art world or any other field in which visual, written and analytical skills are essential.

At Essex, you have the freedom to study what most interests you. Some of the topics you may choose to explore include Early Modern art and architecture; the history of photography; modern and contemporary art; curatorial practice and exhibition design; as well as more vernacular forms of visual culture, such as body art and activist placards.

Regardless of the topics you pursue, we are committed to research-based teaching, with a particular emphasis on bringing the approaches of art history into contact with other disciplines and discourses. In so doing, we seek to facilitate a critical engagement with artworks and forms of visual culture, both within and beyond the traditional canons of art history.

To supplement what you learn in the classroom, frequent staff-led visits to London museums and galleries will expose you to the some of the world’s best museums and galleries, and you will be strongly encouraged to apply for a placement in order to gain experience in the museum and gallery world. On campus, the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA), Europe’s largest collection of contemporary art from Latin American, will provide an invaluable resource for studying art and curatorial practice first-hand.

One of the major reasons for choosing Essex is the quality of the education you will receive. Our Art History programme is 6th in the UK for research excellence, with 89% of our work rated “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (REF 2014). We also achieved an exceptional 95% student satisfaction in the 2016 National Student Survey.

This course is available on either a full-time or part-time basis.

Our expert staff

Essex Art History features a dynamic group of art historians who investigate the production and reception of images and built environments, across cultures and media from the early modern period to the present. Our staff are experts on topics as diverse as activist art, 19th-century medical photography, the art of Latin America, urbanism, exhibition design and body art.

We also have significant experience in curation and public engagement. Recent projects include:
-Dr Gavin Grindon curated a section of Banksy’s Dismaland show and co-curated the Disobedient Objects exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, which was one of the most well attended shows in the museum’s history.
-Dr Matt Lodder has acted as contributor for various television shows on body art and body modification, including the Today programme, the Jeremy Vine Show, Sky News, BBC Breakfast News, ‘Coast’, and National Geographic’s ‘Taboo’.
-Dr Natasha Ruiz Gómez co-organised a major conference on Collect, Exchange, Display: Artistic Practice and the Medical Museum at the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London.

Specialist facilities

At Essex, you have the best of both worlds: on the one hand, you are part of a tight-knit, campus community with close ties to several small but excellent museums in the nearby town of Colchester; on the other hand, you can travel from campus to London in an hour, which puts the world’s best museums and galleries at your fingertips.

Our facilities enable you to gain curatorial experience and engage in object-based learning, a cornerstone of our approach when teaching the history of art and its modes of display:
-Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is the most comprehensive Latin American art research resource in the UK and has a state-of-the-art teaching and research space. Many of our students gain work and research experience through our collection
-Our onsite gallery Art Exchange runs an on-going programme of contemporary art exhibitions, talks and workshops by curators and artists, as well as exhibitions organised by our postgraduate curatorial students
-Colchester’s iconic Firstsite gallery features an exciting programme of contemporary art exhibitions, film screenings and talks, and exhibitions organised by our students

Your future

The visual arts and culture industries have become an increasingly significant part of the national and international economy, and art history graduates leave Essex with the skills to take advantage of this growing opportunity.

Graduates from our programmes are ideally prepared for roles in the media, in advertising, in museums and galleries, in education (in schools, universities, and cultural institutions), as conservators, as auctioneers, dealers and antiques specialists, in charities, in publishing, as specialist arts lawyers, as PR agents, in fashion, or to run their own galleries.

Our recent graduates have gone on to work in a wide range of roles including:
-A member of the valuation team at Sotheby’s (New York)
-Head of Learning at firstsite (a contemporary arts centre in Colchester)
-Visual Merchandising Manager at John Lewis (Oxford Street, London)

We also offer research supervision for students who wish to continue their studies with a PhD or an MPhil. We cover the major areas of European art, architecture and visual culture from 1300 to the present, as well as the art and architecture of Latin America.

We work with our university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

Example Structure

Postgraduate study is the chance to take your education to the next level. The combination of compulsory and optional modules means our courses help you develop extensive knowledge in your chosen discipline, whilst providing plenty of freedom to pursue your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

Art History and Theory - MA
-Dissertation - MA Schemes
-Researching Art History
-Art, Science, Knowledge (optional)
-Collecting Art From Latin America (optional)
-Critique and Curating (optional)
-Curating Inside Out (optional)
-Exhibition (Joint Project) (optional)
-Current Research in Art History (optional)
-Topics in Art History (optional)
-Art & Politics (optional)
-Art, Architecture and Urbanism (optional)

Visit the Art History and Theory - MA page on the University of Essex website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Maxwell Stevenson

“I chose to study art history at Essex because of the breadth and strength of the professors in my department, and also because of its close proximity to London and links to the continent.

It was very easy to settle into life at Essex. Everyone in the School is really friendly and supportive, which
makes it so much easier to get good work done. The other students were great too. It must be something about the University – I felt right at home since the first day.

The School is great, especially for a research student. The staff are amongst the best in their fields and are always approachable and helpful. All of the modules I took were useful but the research skills seminar that I took in the first year of my PhD particularly stands out, as it provided me with many of the skills necessary to commence work on my own project.

Socially, Essex caters for every type, offering a wide range of clubs and societies to get involved in. I joined
the jazz band which was great fun, and living in campus accommodation meant that I made lots of new friends. Having not known anybody from the UK beforehand, I thought it would be the perfect way to meet people, and it really was!

I knew I wanted to pursue a career in academia before I arrived at Essex but my time spent at the University
focused my interests even further. This was aided by the practical experiences I gained whilst studying, such as working for the Department so I taught classes, delivered lectures and gave guided tours of the Colchester Campus. I worked on a major research project, and helped to promote the Department to prospective students. Each of these experiences were invaluable additions to my CV.”

(Student Profile)

Jann Marson

"I am a US-UK Fulbright and Vanier CGS scholar, and PhD student from the University of Toronto, currently enrolled at Essex as a visiting PhD student. Fulbright Fellowships require you to affiliate with a university abroad and I chose Essex for its top scholars in my field and proximity to London. In addition, as an international student, the University's ability to attract students from around the world was important; I was impressed by Essex's emphasis on maintaining a diverse student body, as well as students' enthusiasm for promoting mutual cultural understanding.

Essex was my first choice as it is one of only two places to partner the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacies, which boasts the highest concentration of Surrealist scholars in the world. Studying here has presented me with opportunities that I would not have experienced otherwise; I co-taught an MA module and expanded on this by organising and co-chairing a research-intensive workshop with other art history scholars.

Easy access to London enabled me to commute twice a week for research at the British Library, the British Museum, Tate, and other British cultural institutions, which are among the finest resources in the world for humanities students. This has significantly advanced my research.

After completing my studies at Essex, I will begin a one-year fellowship at the Getty Research Institute in LA, where I hope to expand my knowledge of the ways humanities scholarship helps us understand cultural expression of all kinds. My time as a Fulbright Scholar has enabled me to engage a broader audience in my work, which addresses the complex relationships between visual art, literature, politics, protest, and revolt. These are as crucial to understanding the challenges arising in current localised struggles to promote awareness of intangible cultural heritage, as they are to navigating today's global climate of international political unrest.

The highlight of my time at Essex has been my new friendships and opportunities for intellectual and cultural exchange. I was delighted to find PhD students eager to form extracurricular study groups and create meaningful discourse beyond our departments. Essex students have a real sense of community and waste no time discovering the valuable resource that can be found in each other, which I believe is a product of the University's emphasis on interdisciplinary exchange. I’ve made a lot of friends with whom I plan to stay in touch."


Entry Requirements

A degree with an overall high 2:2. We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the undergraduate qualification you have already completed or are currently taking. IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5 except for 6.0 in writing.

Last Updated

01 August 2017

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