Taught course

Contemporary Art - New York

Sotheby's Institute of Art · Contemporary Art

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Entry requirements

All MA applicants are required to have completed a BA degree or its equivalent. Students in their final undergraduate year may apply for admission and will be required to provide proof of graduation prior to registration.

Applicants should demonstrate the following skills:

  • The ability to perform at a postgraduate level, as indicated by academic achievement and recommendations.
  • Knowledge of art history. This generally requires an undergraduate art history major or minor. In special cases, art-related work experience or exceptional exposure to art making and/or collecting will satisfy this requirement. (Applicants with insufficient art history background may be required to take coursework at the Institute or an institution of their choice that is approved by the Institute’s faculty.)
  • The ability to speak, write and analyze required subject matter fluently in English.

Work experience is not required. However, relevant employment and/or internships enhance a student’s application.

Months of entry


Course content

To ensure the health and safety of our students, we are providing hybrid options for this Master’s program in 2020-2021.

Fall 2020 will be offered remotely. For students on-site in New York, there will be an option to attend a hybrid course. Spring 2020 is planned to be in-person, and all courses will be live-streamed or recorded to enable remote learning. Students may elect to enter the program in the Fall or Spring. Our hybrid learning methodology will take students virtually into emerging and established markets, engage students in small group discussions, and provide global access both online and onsite to galleries, museums, artists’ studios, private collections, and art fairs, introduce them to international experts and artists, and provide them with skills for doing business in the digital era, such as virtual appraisals, online auctions, and much more.

About the Program

Delve into art from 1960 to the present and develop an in-depth understanding of the artists, theories, and movements that define contemporary art. Although the program primarily focuses on Contemporary Art from 1960 to the present, students also receive an introduction to art and theory from the post-war period (1945-60), which serves as a springboard for the program and an important point of reference throughout. This program combines art history, curatorial studies, critical theory, and professional development. The program gives students key intellectual and practical skills to work in the production, exhibition, and sale of contemporary art. The program is anchored in the close study of visual art and critical thought, with an emphasis on professional skills and in situ learning in the galleries, museums, and artists’ studios of New York City and beyond. Students are trained to be conversant with art’s objects and ideas as well as the commercial and institutional contexts in which they are embedded, preparing them for a wide range of careers in the art world.

Academic Structure

Designed to immerse students in all aspects of the Contemporary art scene, this program provides students with privileged access to arts professionals and guest speakers drawn from every sector of the industry.

The program’s first semester supplies foundations in the study of objects, ideas, histories, and exhibitions. In the second semester, we examine the history of art since 2000; we survey key institutions — galleries, auction houses and museums — through which contemporary art flows; and a course on business skills covers keys areas in art law, commerce, and fine art valuation. An intensive program of lectures by faculty members and guest speakers of international standing, virtual and in-person visits to major New York and international venues, as well as small group seminars, workshops, and student presentations, help students gain confidence in reflecting and speaking on all forms of contemporary art – from painting and sculpture to video and installation as well as the most recent web-based, collaborative, and multidisciplinary practices

The Master’s degree is awarded for 30 credits across semesters one and two, as well as the completion of a 6-credit thesis or capstone project in the third semester.

In the first semester, Navigating the Art World brings students from all MAs together for faculty lectures and expert panel discussions to investigate the inextricable connections between art and business in today’s economy. For students starting the program in Fall 2020, this course is offered as a hybrid course with the option of in-person small group discussions. In semester two, students undertake an internship or choose a Careers in the Art World option to gain practical skills and take one elective to broaden their expertise. In addition to a full course load, students participate in virtual and in-person field study trips.

The MA in Contemporary Art culminates in a capstone project which can take the form of a traditional, long-form academic thesis, or a more flexible Master’s Project (often a business plan or curatorial project). Students entering in Fall 2020 can choose to submit their work in the summer and thereby complete their studies within one year. Alternatively, they can extend their studies an additional semester and either transfer to the Institute’s campus in London or return to New York and pursue core courses in either Art Business or Fine and Decorative Art and Design. Students entering in Spring 2021 must complete their project in Spring 2022.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MA
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

+1 646 438 7234