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Study information

Contemporary Art and Curation

Module titleContemporary Art and Curation
Module codeAHV2016
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Tom Trevor (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will explore the role of the curator and the critical issues which define contemporary art practice today. You will examine the complex structures of the art world, and the impact of digital communications, the climate emergency, decolonisation and shifting notions of identity. In a time of global uncertainty, you will consider how art is able to investigate the present and make meaning from it, leading to an understanding of wider developments within culture and society. You will also speculate on the future of contemporary art, and how cultural institutions and traditional hierarchies of knowledge will need to change in response to the new conditions of contemporaneity.  

The module requires no prior knowledge and is open to anyone with an interest in contemporary art and curation.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to: 

  • introduce you to the role of the contemporary art curator, and the complex structures of the art world 
  • discuss the critical concerns, and wider social, cultural and economic conditions, which shape contemporary art practice today 
  • develop an understanding of the constantly evolving field of curationand the institutional structures which support contemporary art, through a combination of in-class discussion, readings, presentations, and lectures 
  • foster your ability to engage in sophisticated analysis of contemporary art, and the practice of curation 
  • develop an in-depth understanding of art institutions and agencies today, and thus equip you with the knowledge to speculate on future transformations of the cultural landscape 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Develop a critical understanding of contemporary curatorial practice
  • 2. Develop an in-depth knowledge of the complex structures of the contemporary art world
  • 3. Critically evaluate the dominant concepts, methods and debates currently informing contemporary art practice

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Independently research, present and critically evaluate examples of contemporary art and curatorial practice in relation to wider intellectual and socio-political discourses
  • 5. Demonstrate an ability to understand and analyse theoretical concepts, and to apply these ideas to the study of contemporary art and curation specifically

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Through essay writing and the practical presentation, demonstrate the capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 7. Through research for the presentation and final essay, demonstrate basic proficiency in research and bibliographical skills, information retrieval, analysis and sharing
  • 8. Through seminar work and group presentations, demonstrate communication skills, and an ability to work creatively and imaginatively both individually and in groups

Syllabus plan

The module will consist of a series of lectures and workshops. Lectures will be structured around a weekly theme and the critical analysis of relevant images and ideas. Workshops will give you the opportunity to engage with specific themes in greater detail, discuss and analyse scholarly texts, and explore more practical aspects of contemporary art and curation. 

Syllabus (indicative): 

  • What is a Curator? 

  • The Apparatus of the Art World 

  • The Digital Network Society 

  • Art in the Anthropocene 

  • On Decoloniality 

  • The Artist’s Body  

  • Institutional Critique 

  • Art and Social Context 

  • Exhibition-Making 

  • After the Future 

  • A Modest Proposal

Full details of weekly topics will be given on ELE.  

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 1111 x 1-hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 105 x 2-hour seminars - led by the tutor or a group of students. You will need to prepare for each seminar and work individually and in groups to present on given topics on a week to week basis
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 1Tutorial guidance for reading, research and essay preparation
Guided independent Study128Reading, research, study group preparation and meetings, seminar/assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Critical analysis 500 words 1-7 Feedback sheet
Group presentation 15-20 minutes, depending on size of groups1-8 Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1002000 words 1-7 Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (2000 words)1-7 Refer/Defer period
Repeat study/Mitigation

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment. 

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%. 

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Belting, H., Buddensieg, A. & Weibel, P. The Global Contemporary and the Rise of New Art Worlds, MIT, 2013 

  • Berardi, F. After the Future, AK Press, 2011 

  • Bradley, W. and Esche, C. Art and Social Change: A Critical Reader, Tate, 2007 

  • Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge, 1990 

  • Castells, M. The Rise of the Network Society, Wiley-Blackwell, 1996 

  • Demos, T.J. Against the Anthropocene Sternberg Press 2017 

  • Foucault, M. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, Pantheon Books, 1978 

  • Gardner, A. and Green, C.R.  Biennales, Triennials, and Documenta: The exhibitions that created contemporary art, Wiley-Blackwell, 2016 

  • George, A. The Curator’s Handbook, Thames and Hudson, 2015 

  • Gilroy, P. The Black Atlantic, Verso, 1993 

  • Harris, J. (ed.) Globalization and Contemporary Art, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011 

  • Jones, A. and Warr, T. The Artist’s Body, Phaidon, 2006 

  • Larsen, L.B. Networks (Documents of Contemporary Art), MIT, 2014 

  • Obrist, H. Ways of Curating, Penguin, 2014 

  • Olufemi, L. Feminism, Interrupted, Pluto Press, 2020 

  • Osborne, P. Anywhere or Not at All, Verso, 2013 

  • Montmann, N. (Ed.) Art and Its Institutions, Black Dog Publishing, 2006 

  • Mignolo, W. and Walsh, C. On Decoloniality, Duke University Press, 2018 

  • Yusoff, K. A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None, University of Minnesota Press, 2018 

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Contemporary Art; Curation; The Art WorldGlobal Art Histories; Museums and Galleries; Digital Network SocietyThe AnthropoceneDecoloniality; The Artist’s Body; Identity Politics; Institutional Critique; Art and Social Context 

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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