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  • Writer's pictureART CURATION

Study Art Curating & Launch Your Career in the Arts & Cultural Sector

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Launch your career in the arts and cultural sector. Taught in collaboration with leading institutions and art spaces, this degree trains art sector leaders of the future by cultivating a comprehensive knowledge of the cultural, theoretical, social, political and economic forces that shape gallery and museum systems. MORE INFO

You will be immersed in the professional world of galleries and museums. Your studies will critically engage with knowledge from Australia’s First Nation’s people to contemporary global art and the study of museums, galleries, cultural institutions, art spaces, and arts practitioners. You can select from a range of units taught in partnership with leading cultural institutions that cultivate critical and practical expertise, such as the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia and our very own Chau Chak Wing Museum, to which you will have exclusive access and substantial opportunities for professional development and sector-leading internship placements.

Audiences at the National Gallery, London 2019,. Photo: Donna West Brett

Key units of study offer essential training in the history of art museums, contemporary curatorial practices, working closely with art objects and art writing, critically examining exhibition and collection strategies, or understanding the art world. The degree also offers specialist units in curating Asian, Islamic, Australian, and Indigenous Art, art and crime, fashion, design or the moving image. Your studies will position you as an expert in the vital role art plays in shaping the values, ethics, and identities of cultures and societies. A key component of our program is sector-leading, project-based internships supervised by industry professionals in local, national and international arts organisations. Internships provide invaluable workplace experience, training and networking opportunities. Alternatively, expand your research skills with a written dissertation, exhibition or curatorial plan offering a pathway to curatorial research positions or research degrees.


ARHT6935 The Art Museum: Past, Present and Future (Core unit) Professor Roger Benjamin and Professor Jos Hackforth-Jones

This unit of study explores the art museum from its origins in Renaissance and Baroque princely and aristocratic collections, through to the creation of new public spaces and institutions for exhibiting art in the 18th and 19th centuries, including national Academies and international exhibitions. Shifting conceptions of the role of the art museum will be addressed: from public instruction to nation building and mass entertainment. The final section explores current debates, including those posed by an expanding range of new media and changing audience perceptions. Jos was director of Sotheby’s Institute of Art from 2008-19 and has a research focus on art and the British Empire, as well as ethics and business in the arts industry. Roger Benjamin is an internationally renowned art historian. His research fields have included Matisse and the art of the Fauves; French Orientalist art and colonialism 1830-1930; contemporary Australian art, and contemporary Australian Indigenous art ARHT6960 Contemporary Curating (Core unit) Dr Lilian Cameron

Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, Photo Brett Boardman

This unit of study focuses on contemporary curatorial practices and explores emerging trends and new directions in curating. It considers the expanding role of the curator, moving from traditional contexts in the art gallery and museum, to contemporary art spaces, artist-run initiatives, public sites, and into globalised and virtual settings. Curating is its own discipline. It has its own histories and is constantly evolving new modes of exhibition-making. The Contemporary Curator is inventing new ways for art to involve itself in society and we investigate the curatorial practices that meet the complexities, complacencies, inequalities, and possibilities of the contemporary moment.

Lilian Cameron is the former Course Leader for the Curating, Museums and Galleries semester course at Sotheby's Institute of Art, London, prior to relocating to Sydney, and author of Curating Art Now, 2022. ARHT5908 The Business of Art (Selective unit) Dr Anna Lawrenson and Professor Jos Hackforth-Jones

Andy Warhol, RDA/Getty Images

Delve into the world of art galleries and museums, auction houses, private and corporate collections, artist-run and alternative spaces as vital components of the global intersection between the art world and the art market. Through site visits, case studies and industry lectures, students will study concepts of authenticity, value, exhibiting, selling and collecting art, alongside principles of law and ethics to gain a unique understanding of the business of art today. Anna Lawrenson is interested in how the funding, history and administration of public museums and galleries influences their public offer in terms of brand, exhibitions and programs. Anna's career has spanned critical museology and applied practice having worked in academia and the arts sector over a number of years in management, curatorial, consultant and research positions. Jos Hackforth-Jones was director of Sotheby’s Institute of Art from 2008-19 and has a research focus on art and the British Empire, as well as ethics and business in the arts industry, and editor of Art Business Today: 20 Key Topics, 2016. ARHT6936 Biennales, Triennales and Contemporary Art (Selective unit) Dr Yvonne Low

24th Biennale of Sydney, 2024, Screen Capture  This unit explores the historical emergence and rapid growth of contemporary international surveys of art since the 1960s. The Biennales, Triennales, Documentas and related international exhibitions are a spectacular cornerstone of today's global art industry. The proliferation of museums, exhibitions, art fairs and cultural events at the international level are now competing with other areas of mass entertainment. In particular, the international contemporary art survey has become a pre-eminent, critical platform for art, trade and cultural politics. The unit is run in conjunction with the Biennale of Sydney. It is an intensive class, with a large component held in situ at Biennale exhibitions, performances, conferences and satellite events. Yvonne Low specialises in modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art, with an interest in Chinese diaspora culture and transnationalism, feminisms in Contemporary art, women’s history, and digital methods. SEMESTERS 1 AND 2

ARHT6923 Capstone Art Curating Placement (Capstone unit) and ARHT6942 Elective Art Curating Placement (Elective Unit)

The Art Curating placement offers an invaluable opportunity to gain hands on experience in one of the University of Sydney’s many institutional partners. Students undertake a 20-day internship, focused on a specific aspect of arts or curatorial professional practice. Internships invite critical reflection on practice, foster skill acquisition, and enhance employment prospects. Projects encourage reflection on the relationship between theory and practice which is synthesized in a major essay. Partner organisations include public and commercial galleries, libraries, and archives as well as Artist Run Initiatives, auction houses and dealers, peak body organisations and festivals. ARHT6920 Dissertation Part 1/ARHT6921 Dissertation Part 2 (Capstone units) Dr Chiara O’Reilly

Nike Savvas, Atomic: full of love, full of wonder, 2005 AGNSW August 2018 Photo COR

Master degree candidates only may undertake research and writing on an approved topic towards a dissertation of 12000 words under the supervision of an academic staff member. The topic is elective. Art Curatorship students have the option of writing a thesis in the form of an exhibition plan and catalogue Essay. The dissertation is equivalent to two units of study. Students enrol in ARHT6920 Dissertation 1 in their first semester of research and complete by enrolling in ARHT6921 Dissertation 2 in the following semester. Chiara O’Reilly is the Director of the Postgraduate Museum and Heritage Studies Program at the University of Sydney. Her research examines museum and gallery history, collections, exhibitions and audience experience.


ARHT6914 Working with Art: Objects in Focus (Core unit) Dr Mark de Vitis with Dr Anneke Jaspers, Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia

Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia

Taking a 360-degree view of the life of a curator, each year this unit runs in an exclusive partnership with a major cultural institution. Working with industry leaders, the unit introduces students to fundamental skills and issues in the study of art through object-based interpretation through exclusive insights, in behind-the-scenes sessions. It considers complexities and challenges related to the analysis, interpretation and display of individual works of art in the context of museums and galleries. Students are supported to develop the ability to work closely with the physical art object. THIS UNIT IS RUN IN PARTNERSHIP AT THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, AUSTRALIA. Mark De Vitis specialises in the study of cultures of dress and dressing, both past and present, and the visual and material culture of the early modern world ARHT5902 Writing for the Art and Museum Sector (Selective unit) Dr Yvonne Low

Young Viewer at Art Gallery of New South Wales, photo by: Yvonne Low  Writing is essential for working in art galleries and museums, such as interpretive texts for audiences, research for publications, education, criticism, or for digital media. This unit will study essential texts by curators and critics and offers workshops to develop skills in writing for a range of contexts, objects, and art forms. Engage in research and writing methods for object labels, podcasts and audio guides, audiences with diverse needs, auction catalogues and other contexts. The modules offer interactive platforms and collaborative learning opportunities with the Chau Chak Wing Museum and local collections to build experience and enhance skills for career readiness or development. Yvonne Low specialises in modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art, with an interest in Chinese diaspora culture and transnationalism, feminisms in Contemporary art, women’s history, and digital methods. ARHT6957 Art and Crime: Theft, Fakes and Forgery (Elective unit) Associate Professor Donna West Brett

Film Still from the Burnt Orange Heresy

From Mona Lisa, tombraiders, forgers and fakes to Nazi art theft, and organised crime this course is essential for arts professionals and curators alike. Delve into the world of art and crime with this interdisciplinary unit as we study international cases from art heists, theft, fraud, fakes and forgery, to illicit looting and trafficking of cultural objects. Students will explore related issues of authenticity, provenance, Nazi-looted art, restitution of looted or stolen objects, and the repatriation of indigenous art and cultural materials. Students engage with real case studies, art objects from the Chau Chak Wing Museum, local collections, and from experts in the fields of art museums, auction houses, connoisseurship, and law. Designed for art museum professionals, art historians, cultural workers, and those interested in art and law. Donna West Brett is an Associate Professor in Art History and Chair of Discipline (2021- ). Donna came to the University of Sydney in 2014 after a career in the arts and art museum sector. Her research specialises in the history of art and visual culture with a particular interest in photographic history and how the medium is employed within systems of power, media and public spectacle. ARHT6964 Art and the Moving Image (Elective unit) Dr Keith Broadfoot

Isaac Julien, Once Again … (Statues Never Die), 2022. The Barnes Foundation, installation view. Image courtesy Isaac Julien and Victoria Miro, London/Venice. Photo by Henrik Kam.

The moving image is a defining feature of much contemporary art and its impact has been transformative. This unit explores the influences and intersections between art and the moving image. Through studying the moving image in a range of mainstream and experimental contexts - from art cinema, film and video to the impact of the digital and the proliferation of social media - the unit assesses the aesthetic implications of the rise of the screen image. In examining the history of artistic innovation with the moving image the unit also considers how institutions have sought to collect, preserve and exhibit the moving image. Keith Broadfoot lectures on modernism and Australian art, including theories of spectatorship. ARHT6961 Curating Islamic Art in 10 Objects (Elective unit) Dr Peyvand Firouzeh

Khadin Ali, The Arrival #1, 2017 This hands-on, object-based unit draws on a wide range of visual material from the diverse cultures of the Islamic world to examine the pivotal and evolving role of Islamic art in today's museums. Seminars will be held in Sydney-based collections such as the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the Chau Chak Wing Museum, working closely with a variety of media from different time periods - historical and contemporary arts - in order to gain knowledge and skills in interpreting and curating Islamic art. We will engage with fundamental questions in the study of Islamic art, and the challenges involved in studying its global histories of collecting, displacing, and displaying.  Peyvand Firouzeh teaches on a wide range of arts in the Islamic world, including both religious and non-religious material culture: from poetry and painting to sacred places, talismans and everyday objects. Her classes offer innovative hands-on, object-based learning to engage with important questions in the field of art history. As a student, you will get a chance to access behind-the-scenes contemporary and historical collections in Sydney, connect with contemporary artists and curators, and experience a breadth of topics and visual materials from the Middle East, South Asia, Australia, and beyond.


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