History of Art



This gallery-based course will focus on artistic practice, themes and debates in the twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on post-Second World War art. Visiting major institutions with extensive collections, in particular Tate Modern and Tate Britain, as well as smaller organisations presenting temporary exhibitions (e.g. Whitechapel Gallery), students will be introduced to key movements in modern and contemporary art. Organised thematically, the course will consider artists’ engagement with the very category of art and its institutions, both in the physical sense, meaning museums and art galleries (and in particular the so-called ‘white cube’), but also conceptually, in the sense of artists responding to the social structures defining and determining artistic production (e.g. questions of gender and race). From pre-World War II experiments with painting, in particular geometric abstraction (e.g. Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematism in Russia, Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian’s De Stijl) to post-war engagement with the notion of the artistic medium (e.g. Donald Judd’s notion of ‘specific objects’, Eva Hesse’s reconfiguration of Minimalist forms), we will consider the ways in which the key problems of representation, originality and materiality have shaped the art of the past century, leading to its expansion into new terrains: video, performance, and recently the internet.