The Master of Arts (MA) in Modern and Contemporary Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) prepares students to engage critically with the history and theory of the visual arts and focuses on the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries in a multicultural and interdisciplinary context.

Students have the ability to concentrate course work in design, theory, and criticism and can tailor their degree to make this their primary focus.

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 Hours36  

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

Interested in learning more?

Click around the pages of this website for more information on admissions requirements, MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History 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