MA Modern and Contemporary Art History Admissions Information

The Master of Arts (MA) in Modern and Contemporary Art History is a two-year, 36-credit graduate program specializing in modern and contemporary art and design in international contexts. Two years of intensive study culminate in an original contribution to scholarship in the form of a master's thesis.

Application and Admissions Information

  • Priority Deadline: December 1 - $45 Application Fee
    Application Deadline: Accepting applications - $90 Application Fee
    Apply online via SlideRoom

    If you are also interested in applying to the Arts Administration program, please ONLY submit a single application to the Dual Degree: Modern & Contemporary Art History AND Arts Administration & Policy.

    SAIC requires applicants to apply online. Filing an online application requires a valid credit card and a current email address. You may apply to up to three programs with one application and fee. If you are applying to either the MFA in Studio or the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Studio you may select up to three departments of entry.

    Applications must be submitted prior to 11:00 p.m. (CST) on the appropriate deadline. When you click the "submit" button on the Graduate Application form, you will be prompted to enter credit card information to pay the application fee. Your application form is not fully submitted until you have entered your credit card information.

    Under no circumstances will an application fee be refunded. After you submit the application form you will be directed to a dashboard where you can begin working on your ePortfolio(s).

  • A conferred four-year baccalaureate degree or its equivalent is required for admission to all graduate programs at SAIC. Transcripts are records of your studies that list the courses you completed, the grades received, and provide evidence of degree conferral. They may include grade sheets, exam results, final diplomas, degrees, or graduation certificates. Official copies are issued in the original language directly by your university. Copies must bear the official stamp or seal of the institution, as well as the signature of the appropriate official, such as the dean, rector, registrar, controller of examinations, or office of teaching affairs. Photos, notarized copies, facsimiles, or email transmissions are not acceptable.

    Official translations are expected for all educational documents issued in a language other than English. A translation agency or university language department should issue official translations typed on official stationery and the translator must attest proficiency in the original language and indicate their translations are accurate word-for-word.

    During the application process an unofficial transcript is acceptable for review pending an Admissions decision. Official transcripts are required upon admission. Include transcripts both official and unofficial from all universities/colleges from which a degree was obtained or prerequisites were fulfilled. You can attach unofficial transcripts as .pdf or .jpg files in the Educational History section of the application form. If you are in the process of completing a bachelor's degree when you apply, a transcript showing your first three years of study is acceptable.

    Transcripts are considered official if sent directly from the degree- or credit-granting institution to the SAIC Graduate Admissions Office. Hard copy transcripts are considered official if the documents remain in the registrar's original signed and sealed envelopes. Official transcripts can be sent both in digital and hard-copy format. Digital transcripts can be sent from the degree- or credit-granting institution to Hard copy transcripts can be mailed to:

    SAIC Graduate
    36 S. Wabash Ave., Suite 1201
    Chicago, IL 60603

    Students admitted to a graduate program who have not received a high school diploma, GED or equivalent are not eligible for federal Title IV financial aid funds. 

  • Write a 500 to 700 word statement that describes your Art History 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 the future directions or goals for your work and describe how this area of study is particularly suite to your professional goals.

    A statement of intent is required for all graduate programs though the content varies by department. You will upload your statement of purpose to the Attachments section of your E-Portfolio.

  • 3 letters of reference are required.

    You are responsible for securing letters of recommendation from persons who are qualified to write about your potential for success at SAIC. If you are currently a student or are a recent graduate, we recommend you request letters of recommendation from current or former instructors.

    Letters of recommendation should be submitted electronically via the References section of the application form. In this section, you will be asked to provide an email address for each of your references. Once you click "send request," an email will be sent from SlideRoom to your references with instructions on how to submit their recommendations online.

    If your references are unable to provide an online recommendation please contact the Graduate Admissions office at

  • A current résumé is required.

    A resume is required for all graduate programs. Upload your résumé to the Attachments section in your E-Portfolio.

  • Submit 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 students will be considered.

    Text documents must be in .pdf format (up to 10MB each).

    Applicants are required to submit an E-Portfolio, though the content varies by department. Please visit your individual program of interest to find details. You must submit a separate E-Portfolio for each program or studio department to which you apply. After you pay the application fee and submit the application form, an E-Portfolio for each of the programs you selected in the application form will automatically appear in your SlideRoom dashboard.

    Submission specifications:

    • Images: .jpg, .gif, .pdf (up to 5 MB each)
    • Videos: .flv, .wv, .mov (up to 60 MB each)
    • Audio: .mp3 (up to 10 MB each)
    • Text documents: MUST be in .pdf format (up to 10 MB each)

  • TOEFL: 100 
    DUOLINGO: 120

    International applicants are required to submit evidence of English language proficiency. You are waived from this requirement if you meet any of the following conditions:

    • Your native language is English
    • You have an undergraduate degree conferred by a U.S.-accredited university
    • You have an undergraduate degree conferred by a university whose primary language of instruction is English

    If you do not meet one of these conditions, you must submit official English language proficiency test scores. You are strongly encouraged to schedule a language proficiency test appointment as early as possible in order to receive official test scores prior to the application deadline.

    SAIC accepts official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), and Duolingo. The TOEFL Institution Code for SAIC is 1713. Please upload an unofficial copy of your test score results to the International Requirements section of the application form.

  • Although no interview is required, applicants are welcome to contact the department to request an informational interview with the graduate program coordinator.

  • 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 5007 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 5101: Theories of Things: Art/Design/Object
    • ARTHI 5111: Urbanization and Its Discontents
    • ARTHI 5122: Critical Terms in Modern Architecture
    • ARTHI 5547: Typographic Modernity & Print
    • ARTHI 5571: Design and the Body
    • 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 Pathway36 credit hours total
    ARTHI 5007: History of Art History3 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 History6 credit hours
    2 interdisciplinary electives (4000-6000 level) or additional Art/Design History seminars6 credit hours
    ARTHI 5999 and ARTHI 6999 Thesis sequence in second year6 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

    • Shiben Banerji, Design History Coordinator and Assistant Professor, Dept. of Art History, Theory, and Criticism
    • Michael Golec, Associate Professor, Dept. of Art History, Theory, and Criticism
    • Bess Williamson, Associate Professor, Dept. of Art History, Theory, and Criticism

Campus and Citywide Resources

Chicago is a world-class city with a vibrant art scene. MA 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 conduct research at 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.

Additionally, 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 and Art History End-of-Year Lecture.

Take the Next Step

Visit the graduate admissions website or contact the graduate admissions office at 312.629.6100, 800.232.7242, or



Wide shot of a large, classical library

MA Modern and Contemporary Art History Graduate Brochure