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SAIC has long been distinguished by its innovative and extensive curriculum in modern and contemporary topics. SAIC's Master of Arts (MA) in Modern and Contemporary Art History draws on the institution's setting in Chicago with its wealth of historic architecture, public sculpture, museums, libraries, cultural facilities, and lively gallery scene.

The program is the most extensive of its kind in a professional art and design school in this country, and its curriculum allows for an expansive and diverse view of the historical, theoretical, and critical issues relating to art, design, and contemporary visual cultures. Fifteen full-time faculty teach modern and contemporary art from diverse theoretical perspectives in a wide array of global and international contexts. Faculty are actively engaged in their own research and incorporate it into their training of graduate students. In addition, graduate students in Art History can draw on the diversity of artists and scholars teaching in departments across SAIC that provide an exciting intellectual community engaged with the contemporary art world. Our graduate students have gone on to be curators, professors, writers, critics, publishers, gallerists, arts administrators, and activists.

The department supports an active research culture with frequent lectures by visiting scholars, critics, and curators. Most important of these is the annual Lifton Memorial Lecture and seminar that brings a significant figure engaged with modern and contemporary art to campus. Speakers have included Linda Nochlin, Anne Wagner, Kellie Jones, and Patricia Leighten. In addition, graduate students annually select an Art History Graduate Committee Lecturer to speak every spring and have recently invited Miwon Kwon, Douglas Crimp, Whitney Davis, David Joselit, and Mignon Nixon. Across SAIC, contemporary artists give talks every week through studio departments and the Visiting Artists Program.

Students may elect to specialize in Design History within the graduate degrees offered by the Department. The Design History Track allows students to focus on the theories, practices, and histories of design and architecture and take graduate seminars that center on the examination of the conception, production, consumption, and interpretation of design.

The department also offers a three-year, dual-degree master’s program in conjunction with the Department of Arts Administration and Policy. Dual-degree students are prepared to pursue careers as curators, professors, museum administrators, and in other leadership roles in nonprofit organizations, galleries, and foundation and cultural policy advocacy.

Thesis Abstracts

Each year, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago celebrates the culmination and closure of students' studies at the masters level. In studio areas, the celebration takes place in the form of the thesis exhibitions. The academic areas complement this with the publication of students' theses.

The SAIC Thesis Repository contains theses for the MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History and the Dual Degree submitted since November 2013.

Theses submitted prior to November 2013 are listed in the Flaxman Library catalog.

Interested in learning more about how you can apply?

Visit the graduate admissions website or contact the graduate admissions office at 800.232.7242 or