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Art History, Theory, and Criticism: Master of Arts in Modern and Contemporary Art History

The Master of Arts (MA) in Modern and Contemporary Art History is a two-year, 36-credit masters program specializing in modern and contemporary art in its international contexts. Faculty research extends to art and design practices around the world and remains on the cutting edge of present trends in the field. Students engage in the study of a wide range of artists, artistic practices, and art institutions. Their research culminates in an original contribution to scholarship in the form of a Masters thesis written under the supervision of a full-time faculty member in the department.

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The Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) requires an online application for its Master of Arts (MA) in Modern and Contemporary Art History program. You will need a valid credit card and current email address in order to complete the form. Please review the following requirements carefully before submitting your application:

  • Applications for the fall semester must be submitted no later than January 15. No applications are accepted for spring semester.
  • There is a $90 nonrefundable application fee. The application fee is discounted by 50% through December 1.
  • You must upload one 500- to 750-word statement that describes your work or research. Discuss how you came to focus on the medium, body of work, or academic area you wish to pursue at the graduate level. Also discuss future directions or goals for your work and describe how this area of study is particularly suited to your professional goals. Upload your statement of purpose to your online application.
  • In addition to your application, you must submit an ePortfolio by 11:59 p.m. (CST) on January 16. Your portfolio should include a 15- to 25-page critical writing sample that demonstrates knowledge of the field, ability in research, and clarity of argumentation. Submissions should be written on a topic in modern or contemporary art history from the 19th century to the present, but papers dealing with earlier historical eras will be accepted if they are in dialogue with current debates and methods. Additionally, topics dealing with relevant theories and philosophies, visual studies, and film studies will be considered.

You also must submit an official college transcript and three letters of reference for admission into the program. You can ask your references to upload their letters to your online application or mail them directly to the school. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required. The department may contact some applicants for an interview after reviewing all submitted applications.

 

Historiography seminar—choose one of the following: 3  
  • ARTHI 5007 History of Art History (3)
  • ARTHI 5008 History of Art Criticism and Theory (3)
  • ARTHI 5011 History of Art and Design (3)
 
Global Issues seminar (5000 level) that focuses on art worlds outside of Europe and North America or focuses on Global Art Theory. A list of courses that satisfies this requirement is available from the department every semester. 3  
Graduate seminars in Modern and Contemporary Art History (5000 level)  12 
Additional courses or seminars in Art History, Theory, and Criticism (4000–6000 level)  6  
Interdisciplinary electives or additional courses or seminars in Art History, Theory, and Criticism (4000–6000 level)   6  
Thesis research and writing  6  
  • ARTHI 5999 Thesis I (3)
  • ARTHI 6999 Thesis II (Independent Study) (3)
 
Completion of thesis—a final thesis must be submitted to and approved by the thesis readers and the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism.  
Total Credit Hours 36  

Degree requirements and specifications

  1. Completion schedule: Students have a maximum of four years from entry into the program to complete coursework and submit a final, approved thesis. This includes time off for leaves of absence. Credit for Thesis Research and Writing (ARTHI 5999 and 6999) is granted only after the thesis is approved and final copies are submitted to the Department.
  2. Thesis in Progress: Students who have not submitted a finished thesis for review and approval by the end of the final semester of enrollment are given a Thesis in Progress grade (IP). All students with a Thesis in Progress grade (IP) will be charged the Thesis in Progress Fee in each subsequent full semester until the thesis is completed and approved and the grade is changed to Credit (CR). If the statute of limitations is reached without an approved thesis, the grade will be changed to No Credit (NCR).
  3. Transfer credits: A minimum of 30 credit hours must be completed in residence at SAIC. Up to six transfer credits may be requested at the time of application for admission and are subject to approval at that time. No transfer credit will be permitted after a student is admitted.
  4. Curriculum: The program requires 36 credit hours, and each individual course is generally three credit hours. Courses are subject to approval by the Art History Graduate Program Director.
  5. Art History requirement: From the Graduate Seminars and additional courses in Art History, at least one course (3 credit hours) must be taken from the list of courses designated 19th-century art history and at least one course (3 credit hours) designated early-20th-century art history. A list of courses that satisfies this requirement is available from the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism every semester.
  6. Electives: Electives can be taken from the following departments and programs without additional approval from the Graduate Program Director: Art History, Theory, and Criticism; Visual and Critical Studies; Arts Administration and Policy; Art Education; and Writing. Graduate seminars and upper-level courses in departments other than those listed above may be allowed as electives, contingent upon prior approval from both the Art History Graduate Program Director and the course instructor.
  7. Internship/Co-op Option: Students have the option of taking up to three hours of credit through the co-op internship program. These credit hours can be taken as part of additional courses or electives, but internship credits never count toward the required number of seminar credit hours.
  8. Full-time Status Minimum Requirement: 9 credit hours

Specialization in Design History
within the Master of Arts (MA) in Modern and Contemporary Art History 

Graduate students in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism's graduate degree programs may elect to follow a specialized pathway in Design History. Coursework in this specialization focuses on the production of knowledge, discourses, practices, and domains of objects that have been understood to fall under the broad category of design. As with the MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History degree as a whole, seminars and research topics focus on the modern and contemporary periods.

Students following the Design History pathway will study the theories and practices of design and examine the conception, production, interpretation, and consumption of design.

MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History students electing to follow the Design History pathway are expected to take ARTHI 5011 as their methods seminar, followed by at least four seminars in the Design History curriculum. Thesis topics should address the history and theory of design or architecture.

Recent graduate seminars and courses in Design History include:

  • ARTHI 5100: Issues in Architectural History: Chicago as Laboratory
  • ARTHI 5101: Theories of Things: Art/Design/Object
  • ARTHI 5102: Space in Architectural History
  • ARTHI 5122: Critical Traditions in the History of Architecture and Design
  • ARTHI 5547: Typographic Modernity & Print
  • ARTHI 5575: Extraordinary Bodies: Disability/Art/Design
  • ARTHI 4547: Biopolitics and Data Visualization
  • ARTHI 5480: Vernacular, Colonial, Global: Modern Architecture at the End of Empire
Curricular Requirements for the Design History Pathway 36 credit hours total
ARTHI 5011: History of Art and Design History 3 credit hours

4 graduate seminars (5000-level) in Design History

 

12 credit hours

Global Issues seminar (5000 level) that focuses on art worlds outside of Europe and North America or focuses on Global Art Theory.

A list of courses that satisfies this requirement is available from the department every semester

3 credit hours
2 additional seminars in Art History 6 credit hours
2 interdisciplinary electives (4000-6000 level) or additional Art/Design History seminars 6 credit hours
ARTHI 5999 and ARTHI 6999 Thesis sequence in second year 6 credit hours
Completion of thesis  

Degree requirements and specifications

  1. Completion schedule: Students have a maximum of four years from entry into the program to complete coursework and submit a final, approved thesis. This includes time off for leaves of absence. Credit for Thesis Research and Writing (ARTHI 5999 and 6999) is granted only after the thesis is approved and final copies are submitted to the Department.
  2. Thesis in Progress: Students who have not submitted a finished thesis for review and approval by the end of the final semester of enrollment are given a Thesis in Progress grade (IP). All students with a Thesis in Progress grade (IP) will be charged the Thesis in Progress Fee in each subsequent full semester until the thesis is completed and approved and the grade is changed to Credit (CR). If the statute of limitations is reached without an approved thesis, the grade will be changed to No Credit (NCR).
  3. Transfer credits: A minimum of 30 credit hours must be completed in residence at SAIC. Up to six transfer credits may be requested at the time of application for admission and are subject to approval at that time. No transfer credit will be permitted after a student is admitted.
  4. Curriculum: The program requires 36 credit hours, and each individual course is generally three credit hours. Courses are subject to approval by the Art History Graduate Program Director.
  5. Art History requirement: From the Graduate Seminars and additional courses in Art History, at least one course (3 credit hours) must be taken from the list of courses designated 19th-century art history and at least one course (3 credit hours) designated early-20th-century art history. A list of courses that satisfies this requirement is available from the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism every semester.
  6. Global Issues Seminar: If the Global Issues seminar is also designated as Design History, students may use it to also fulfill one of the four graduate seminars in Design History. In this case, students would then be expected to take 3 Additional seminars in Art History rather than 2.
  7. Electives: Electives can be taken from the following departments and programs without additional approval from the Graduate Program Director: Art History, Theory, and Criticism; Visual and Critical Studies; Arts Administration and Policy; Art Education; and Writing. Graduate seminars and upper-level courses in departments other than those listed above may be allowed as electives, contingent upon prior approval from both the Art History Graduate Program Director and the course instructor.
  8. Internship/Co-op Option: Students have the option of taking up to three hours of credit through the co-op internship program. These credit hours can be taken as part of additional courses or electives, but internship credits never count toward the required number of seminar credit hours.
  9. Full-time Status Minimum Requirement: 9 credit hours

Core Design History Faculty

Bess Williamson, Design History Coordinator and Assistant Professor, Dept. of Art History, Theory, and Criticism
swilliamson1@artic.edu

Shiben Banerji, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Art History, Theory, and Criticism

Michael Golec, Associate Professor, Dept. of Art History, Theory, and Criticism

 

In addition to modern and contemporary art and performance, MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History students also have the option of pursuing a course of study focusing on modern and contemporary Design History.

MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History students enjoy successful careers after graduation, going on to influential positions in museums, art galleries, alternative venues, publishing, and academia.

Globally Recognized Faculty

The department's full-time faculty are the core faculty for the MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History graduate program. All PhD-level art historians with global reputations, they have published widely and are winners of many national and international fellowships and honors, including NEH, École Normale Supérieure, Guggenheim, Graham, CASVA, Institute for Advanced Study, and Getty grants, as well as appointments at prominent art and cultural institutions. The graduate program in modern and contemporary art history incorporates ideas from a breadth of disciplines ranging from design history, museum studies, material culture studies, visual studies, philosophy, film studies, and gender studies; research specialties cover Europe, North America, South Asia, East Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Campus and Citywide Resources

Chicago is a world-class city with a vibrant art scene, and MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History students enjoy dynamic involvement with contemporary art and exhibitions in the area. Students have access to major cultural institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago, its Modern Wing, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and numerous artist-run galleries and community-based organizations in the city's independent art scene.

Students also have access to SAIC's libraries and research centers, including the John M. Flaxman Library, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries of the Art Institute of Chicago, Video Data Bank, Joan Flasch Artists Book Collection, Fashion Resource Center, Roger Brown Study Collection, and the Gene Siskel Film Center.

In addition, SAIC attracts numerous visiting artists, historians, and critics, creating opportunities for students to interact and network with scholars from the field. The department hosts a number of visiting art historians every year, most notably through its annual Norma U. Lifton Lecture in Art History and in conjunction with its annual MAAH Graduate Student Research Symposium.

Interested in learning more?

Click around the pages of this website for information on admissions and curriculum requirements, MAAH faculty, students and alumni, and more. 

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 gradmiss@saic.edu.