Art History, Theory, and Criticism 

The Department of Art History, Theory and Criticism at SAIC offers a wide range of courses on Modern and Contemporary Art that span the Globe. It is committed to innovation in research, and teaching a diverse curriculum.

Classes address art of all media, design and architecture, visual and material cultures, and contemporary theories of art and culture. The international networks for contemporary art are an important part of the course offerings, and we offer a wide range of classes in Asian, African, Latin American, European, and North American Art.

Meet Our Alums

Person reading book sitting at table in large library

Alivé Piliado (MA 2023)

Alive Piliado (MA 2023) is a Mexican art historian who graduated with a dual master's degree in Arts Administration and Policy and Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory, and Criticism. Before arriving in Chicago, Alivé served as a curator at the National Museum of Art (MUNAL) and the National Museum of San Carlos, both in Mexico City. She is interested in expanding her critical curatorial studies, providing research and exhibition spaces for Latin American women artists, and championing the importance of Mexican art in the history of global modern art. Alivé advocates for inclusive discourses and promotes diversity both within arts organizations and in terms of audiences and community outreach.

Students in SAIC’s Art History program pursue research in a prestigious art school connected with a major museum. They work with a large department of full-time faculty specializing in modern and contemporary art and design with a global focus, and challenge, debate and interpret the field.

An image of the staircase in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Margarita Lizcano Hernandez (BAAH 2018)

Margarita Lizcano Hernandez is a curator and scholar based in New York focusing on Latin American art and global artist networks. She is currently a curatorial assistant at the ​Museum of Modern Art. In her previous role at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, she ​was part of the core team working on the forthcoming Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum, focusing on collection management, protocol building, collection strategy research, and proposing works for acquisition.

Art History, Theory, and Criticism Faculty

Full-time faculty are scholars with global reputations whose research is on the cutting edge of present trends in the field with specialties covering Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Europe, and North America. Their teaching engages with interdisciplinary perspectives such as race, gender and performance studies, decolonization and the transnational, experimental media and design history

A sculpture on a pedestal in a gallery surrounded by colorful paintings

Works by Michael Casey, Josiah Ellner, and Deo Rai

Advanced Curatorial Practice

This course provides students with background on the issues and practices of contemporary curating, while preparing them to work as a team. This course is open to MA and MFA students by application and instructor consent.

A group of students standing in front of some archways.

Study Trips

SAIC offers a large selection of faculty-led study trips to provide students with relevant and dynamic opportunities to experience international travel and build intercultural competency, all while earning credit toward a degree. 

Four people sit in a louge surrounded by books.

Art History, Theory, and Criticism Newsletter

Commitment to Anti-Racism

Our department is committed to the ongoing efforts to combat white supremacy and police violence as led by Black youth in this country and joined by thousands. We are committed to racial justice and see our work as scholars and critics as deeply intertwined with ongoing struggles for liberation. In an effort to use our institutional status as a platform, we have compiled an immediate and incomplete list of resources as a tiny gesture of solidarity with our students, faculty colleagues, staff, and everyone in the streets.

  • In light of the recent murders of Asian women in Georgia and systemic violence against Asians in America, we offer these resources in solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

  • We, as a department, acknowledge that the academic field of Art History is not separate from social and historical events or dynamics. As such, Art History as a field reflects the paradigms of structural racism in the United States and the larger world amid colonialism and neo-colonialism—projects of domination and white supremacy that continue today.

    In the last 15 years, our department has made efforts to counter racist dynamics in the field and at SAIC by expanding course offerings and hiring full-time specialists in fields such as African, African-American, Latin American and Asian art history. While these efforts have, on the curricular level, contributed to a decentering of the North Atlantic canon, they have, quite simply, not been enough. The department presently does not have a single Black full-time faculty member. Students have repeatedly expressed concerns about how BIPOC art histories are taught; about microaggressions in the classroom; about a need for more sensitivity in how knowledge related to Black and Brown people is introduced to our students—particularly when faculty introduce material that is not directly linked to their own backgrounds.

    We have to do better and are committed to doing better. We hereby pledge following the action items:

    • We renew our commitment to robust offerings on histories of art, design and activism related to BIPOC, non-Western and racialized minority communities every semester, regardless of administrative commitments of the specialists who normally teach them.
    • Our system of labeling courses and diversifying their content must and will be improved so that those classes—including introductory surveys (ARTHI 1001 - 1002)—with substantial emphases on Black and Brown art and design history are clearly available to students. 
    • That said, we affirm as a department that Black and Brown art and design history, as well as the legacy of systemic racism, is relevant material in all of our course offerings-- and that we need to do more to address these histories as teachers. 
    • We will continue the overhaul of our introductory surveys that began with ARTHI 1001, which now has a guidebook that outlines significant expectations in terms of broad cultural coverage. Our focus will next shift to ARTHI 1002, which covers Modern and Contemporary Art. The department’s Curriculum Committee will look to address such changes in terms of course content.
    • To these ends, we will establish student chairs at both the BA and MA level on our Curriculum Committee, to assure that feedback from the student body directly affects ongoing curricular changes.
    • The Department additionally looks forward to workshops related to critical race pedagogy for our faculty, mediated by Dio Aldridge at SAIC’s Diversity Action Group. Opportunities will be presented for students to directly address faculty about specific moments in the classroom that need to be reconsidered. This is self-reflective work that all of our faculty can and desire to take on for themselves to improve as teachers and allies against white supremacy on our campus.
    • We further recognize the adjacency of decolonial and antiracist pedagogies as they pertain to the School’s international community.
    • Recognizing the financial strains of the current moment, we pledge to prioritize diverse hiring practices. We also support the demands of Black Faculty at SAIC to raise the position of Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to a VP position and expand the office's staff and purview in order to assist with departmental concerns along with the larger institutional priorities. 

    This statement has been drafted and reviewed by full-time faculty in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, and has the ethical weight of a contract. By signing, we collectively commit to it.

Follow us

Contact Us

Art History, Theory, and Criticism Office

MacLean Center
112 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 605


Daniel Quiles

Graduate Program Director

Bess Williamson

Undergraduate Program Director

Jennifer Dorothy Lee