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Study information

Arts of the Contemporary World

Module titleArts of the Contemporary World
Module codeAHVM002
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Tom Trevor (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module equips you with an informed understanding of contemporary art from a transnational perspective. The cultural assumptions identifying contemporary art practice principally with Western initiatives have been challenged and to some extent superseded and new economic realities may see this process accelerate.

In this module you will examine a wide range of critical thinking in relation to contemporary art, with a particular emphasis on counter-hegemonic cultural narratives and emergent (non-Western) centres of art production. You will look at curatorial responses to the global contemporary art phenomenon as reflected in many of the major venues and events where this art is brought to public attention (for example, Documenta, Manifesta, and the many international art biennials held around the world). You will analyse the problems associated with defining contemporary visual culture according to identity, community, national, international or transnational contexts. You will also discuss different critical theories and perspectives on mainstream culture in relation to the notion of ‘contemporaneity’, in the context of an emerging global network society.

Alongside a series of lectures and discussions around theories of contemporary art in a global context, students will represent these ideas through the works of particular artists or groups, and emergent art practices. There will also be a series of workshops exploring regional art scenes around the world. During Term 1 you will visit a number of i internationally significant regional art venues.

This module is suitable for non-specialist students.

This module is recommended for interdisciplinary pathways.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to:

  • enable you to gain an advanced understanding of the nature of contemporary arts practice in a global context
  • provide you with opportunities to learn about, reflect on and explore the application of different interpretive methods to specific art works and artists’ practices originating in different centres of art production
  • offer opportunities for the focussed study and analysis of specific art works and practices, and the development of a critical understanding of the relation of contemporary art to various historical, cultural and critical contexts
  • encourage curiosity and creativity in the evaluation and use of distinct kinds of textual resources (print and digital), including arts criticism and artists’ writings
  • identify and discuss significant issues and debates relating to the interpretation of contemporary art in a global perspective
  • develop productive research strategies and the building of sustained arguments and interpretative accounts
  • promote the ability to communicate original research and interpretations of art to diverse audiences using a range of presentation techniques
  • provide a context within which you will lead and participate in group discussion of works, artists’ practices and issues and approaches to global art histories

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the nature of contemporary arts practice in a global context
  • 2. Evidence awareness of the major exhibition venues for global arts and their rationales
  • 3. Deploy the relevant critical approaches for assessing contemporary arts production in different centres

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Demonstrate advanced knowledge and critical understanding of alternative methodological approaches to art history, and how to apply them to the interpretation of contemporary arts in a global context
  • 5. Evidence an informed engagement with current art historical/critical thinking and interpretation with respect to contemporary art in a global context
  • 6. Demonstrate the ability to identify a productive range of sources and interpretations, and to collect, analyse and critically appraise these in the development of an independent interpretation of a specific body of art works

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Demonstrate the ability to undertake research using a variety of different kinds of sources
  • 8. Assess the merits of complex arguments, comparing divergent points of view /approaches and evaluating their application
  • 9. Formulate independent responses to works, practices and debates utilising appropriate methods of analysis
  • 10. Demonstrate independence, intellectual autonomy and organisational skills through the formulation of original arguments using informed critical judgement and discrimination
  • 11. Communicate ideas and arguments effectively, both orally and in writing, making effective use of visual material and digital resources where appropriate
  • 12. Exercise leadership, teamwork and self-reflective skills by leading and participating in group discussions

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Lectures (weekly) will involve analysis and discussion of current cultural theory and critical ideas on contemporary art, from a global perspective, including a focus on significant contemporary artists and global art centres of production. A major concern will also be the analysis and assessment of influential interpretative frameworks that seek to describe and critique the global contemporary art phenomenon.  
  • Field trip (3 days) will include  visits to  internationally significant regional art museums galleries and other institutions in the South West of England. Discursive sessions will be held in relation to collection displays or exhibitions encountered on the trip.
  • Seminars (weekly) are intended as student presentations and group discussion with a seminar tutor’s guidance. You will present the work of key artists and artist groups, or emergent art practices, selected in relation to the theme of the weekly lecture. A set of required readings and bibliographic suggestions will structure and guide your initial studies, but it is expected that you will develop ideas and research strategies more independently.   
  • In addition, there will be a series of weekly workshops focusing on regional art scenes around the world.
  • Tutorials (2 x 30 minutes across the term): one-to-one meetings between each student and their module tutor

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 60-minute lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 1510 x 90-minute seminars to discuss selected artists
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 32 x 90 minute symposia (formative presentations)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 1111 x 60-minute workshops focusing on regional art scenes
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 93-day field trip to regional art venues
Guided IndepeScheduled Learning and Teaching ndent Study0.51 x 30-minute individual tutorial session spread across the term to check on individual student’s progress
Guided Independent Study30Independent/group reading of selected critical texts/practical examples for seminar presentation
Guided Independent Study150.5Reading and research in preparation for field trip
Guided Independent Study139Reading and preparation for lectures, seminars, presentations and assessed coursework

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Symposium presentation15-minute oral presentation (PowerPoint presentation and hand-outs used by individual/group in presentation submitted to tutor(s) at the end of presentation)1-12Oral feedback in class, written feedback from tutor(s)

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
Review453000 words1-11Feedback sheet with tutor follow up
Critical Essay554000 words1-11Feedback sheet with tutor follow up

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Review3000 word review1-11Referral/deferral period
Critical Essay4000 word critical essay1`-11Referral/deferral period

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 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Ade, W.A. & Ching, L.L. Contemporary Arts as Political Practice in Singapore, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017
  • Belting,H., Birken, J.,  Buddensieg, A. &   Weibel, P. Global Studies. Mapping Contemporary Art and Culture, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, 2011
  • Belting, H., Buddensieg, A. &   Weibel, P The Global Contemporary and the Rise of New Art Worlds. MIT, 2013
  • Bydler, C. The Global Artworld Inc.: On the Globalization of Contemporary Art, Uppsala University Press, 2004
  • Carrier, D. A World Art History and Its Objects, Penn State UP, 2008
  • Clark, J.,   Peleggi, M. & Sabapathy, T. K.  (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Reception, Audience, and Practice of Modern Asian Art, University of Sydney East Asian series, 15 (Sydney: Wild Peony), 2006
  • Edwards, S. & Wood, P. Art & Visual Culture: Modernity to Globalisation, Tate Publishing, 2013
  • Elkins, J. (ed.)  Is Art History Global, , Routledge, 2007
  • Fibicher, B. (ed.). South meets West Ex. Cat. National Museum of Ghana, Accra I Kunsthalle and Historisches Museum Bern, 2000
  • Foster, H., Krauss, R., Bois, Y-A, Buchloh, B. & Joselit, D. Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism, Thames & Hudson, 2012
  • Gardner, A. and Green, C.R.  Biennales, Triennials, and Documenta: The exhibitions that created contemporary art,  Wiley-Blackwell, 2016
  • Good, C. and Waldron, J. V. (eds.). The Effects of the Nation. Mexican Art in an Age of Globalization, Temple University Press, 2001
  • Harris, J. (ed.) Globalization and Contemporary Art, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011
  • Hicks, A. The Global Art Compass: New Directions in 21st Century Art, Thames and Hudson, 2014
  • Hung, Wu (ed.) Contemporary Chinese art : primary documents   Duke University Press, 2010
  • Hung, Wu Making history : Wu Hung on contemporary art, Timezone 8 2008
  • Kapur, G. When Was Modernism: Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India, Tulika, 2000
  • Kompatsiaris, P. The Politics of Contemporary Art Biennials: Spectacles of Critique, Theory and Art, Routledge, 2017
  • Knonsary, J. & O’Brian, M. Aesthetics and Contemporary Art,  Sternberg, 2011
  • Lee, P. M. ‘Boundary Issues. The Art world under the Sign of Globalism’,  Artforum International, vol. 42, November 2003, p. 164-167
  • Maschiano, G. and Milani, R. (eds.) Frontiers of Transculturality in Contemporary Aesthetics, Trauben, 2001
  • Newall, D. (ed.) Fifty Key Texts in Art History, Routledge, 2012
  • Ngan, I., and Lai, E. (eds.). Mapping Identities. The Art and Curating of OSCAR HO, Ex. cat. Para/Site 5.1.-5.12. 2004, Hong Kong: Para/Site Art Space Ltd., 2004
  • Njami, S.(ed.)  Africa Remix. Contemporary Art of a Continent, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2005
  • Osborne, P. Anywhere or Not at All: The Philosophy of Contemporary Art, Verso, 2013
  • Rampley, M., Lenain, T. & Locher, H. (eds.) Art History and Visual Studies in Europe: Transnational Discourses and National Frameworks,  Brill, 2012.
  • Smith, T. Contemporary Art: World Currents, Lawrence King, 2011
  • Stallabrass, J. Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction, OUP, 2006
  • Steeds, L. Making Art Global (Part 2): 'Magiciens de la Terre' 1989, Afterall, 2013
  • Stiles, K. & Seltz, P. (eds.) Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings (Second Edition), University of California Press, 2012
  • Sullivan, M. Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China, University of California Press, 1996
  • Tawadros, G. (ed.). Changing States. Contemporary Art and Ideas in an Era of Globalisation, Institute of International Visual Arts (inIVA), 2004
  • Turner , C. (ed.) Art and Social Change: Contemporary Art in Asia and the Pacific,  Pandanus Press, 2005
  • Van den Braenbussche, A,  Kimmerle, H. & and  Note, N. (eds.). Intercultural Aesthetics. A Worldview Perspective, Springer Netherlands, 2009
  • Vanderlinden, B. & Filipovic, E. The Manifesta Decade: Debates on Contemporary Art Exhibitions and Biennials in Post-Wall Europe, MIT Press, 2006
  • Waterlow, N. ‘A View of World Art c. 1940-1988’ in Australian Biennale 1988: From the Southern Cross – A View of World Art,  ex. cat, Biennale of Sydney, 1988
  • Wu, Chin-Tao  ‘Worlds Apart. Problems of Interpreting Globalised Art’,  Third Text, Vol. 21, Issue 6, November 2007 (London/New York: Routledge, 2007), pp. 719-731
  • Zijlmans, K. &Van Damme , W. (eds.) World art studies: exploring concepts and approaches Valiz, 2008

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Third Text. Journal (1987-),  New York / London: Routledge.

Key words search

Contemporary art; visual art; art curator; curatorial practice; galleries; museums; art collections; collectors; art fairs; auction houses; biennials; critical theory; cultural politics

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


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