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Study With Us in 2023

Study with our world-renowned scholars and award-winning teachers in partnership with key cultural institutions on campus and across Sydney. Work toward a career in the arts, cultural and museum sectors with study options across the Art History Major/Minor, Honours Program, and postgraduate degrees in Art Curating or Museum and Heritage Studies. Take advantage of the events and programs of the Power Institute for Visual Culture and study in the Schaeffer Fine Art Library. Visit the University of Sydney Art History Discipline Site today.

Enrolment for S1 2023 is open now! With a diversity of units on offer, we are sure there will be a topic focus to align with your interests, including art of political change from the 1960s; art, culture and identity; Asian art and curating; museum & heritage studies, and on-site engagement with Sydney-based exhibitions, displays and collections.

Peter Sedgley, Chromosphere, 1967 (detail), University Art Collection, PW1967.22

Making sense of the visual art created today and by cultures of the recent and distant past.



Style & Substance: Introducing to Art History ARHT1001 CORE UNIT

Dr Mark De Vitis Taking a diverse, global view of art making from the Ancient to the Modern world, ARHT1001 will introduce students to key philosophical and methodological approaches in the field of Art History. As our experiences are increasingly mediated through a variety of visual platforms, this course will help students develop critical perspectives on visual communication. The development of professional skill sets will be a key focus. As such, the course serves as an essential introduction to Art History for those considering a career in the arts, education, or the museum and design sectors.

Pollock to Psychedelia ARHT2614

This unit studies the interplay between high art and popular culture in America from the 1950s onwards. Pop Art, Minimalism and Performance formed alongside emerging youth cultures of political protest, drugs and rock music. We examine the interactions of high art, youth culture and mass media.

Art, Memory and Identity ARHT2677

Dr Tanya Peterson

Students study contemporary and historical art in relation to collective or public memory, as well as personal memory. Memory as a subject, and memory as a tool, are considered in relation to the making of art objects and their reading. The unit looks at art's connection with the past, with history, trauma, loss and remembrance, as well as art's connection with identity, dreams, and childhood. Students gain informed perspectives on how memory is theorised as a phenomenon both real and imaginary, and why it memory often judged as more important to art than history.

Tanya is a writer and artist, whose recent research considers how the sun can shape our understanding and experiences of events and ecologies.

Art, Cities and Early Modern Worlds ARHT3682 (senior undergraduate) NEW UNIT

This new unit takes students from Renaissance Italy to Safavid Persia and across the globe to explore art in the cities and spaces of the Early Modern World. Works of art and design shaped and enriched the lives of these places. The course will take an expanded view of the distinct and interwoven visual and material histories of these worlds, exposing students to cutting-edge thinking, writing and exhibitions. You will encounter comparative, globally aware and materially expansive approaches to art through seminars, site visits and discussions led by a team of teachers dedicated to opening access to an expanded vista of these great cities, sites and works of art

Mark’s comprehensive research focus spans eighteenth and nineteenth-century European art, including artists Francois Boucher, Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Baptiste Greuze; as well as questions of genre in visual art and methods of art history.

Sensation: Encountering Contemporary Art ARHT3683 (senior undergraduate) NEW UNIT

Today transformations in how art is made, networked, theorised and curated is indelibly tied to new and expanded ways of encountering contemporary art. From political imperatives of decolonisation, globalisation and the environment, indigeneity, to feminist and queer art, or art as spectacle, new impetuses for artmaking and curating are dynamically changing the cultural landscape. Social media and the digital turn offer new modes of engaging with contemporary visual culture. This unit addresses these recent transformations to explore the expanded field of contemporary art in the digital sphere and in the physical encounter with art in local art spaces, galleries, biennales and beyond.

Donna is Chair of Art History, an expert in the history of photography and collections with a particular focus on cold war cultural materials; modernism and contemporary art; and curatorial practice and theory.


Berlin Fieldwork: Art and the City ARHT3681 (this unit has reached its maximum enrolments)

Described by the former Mayor, Klaus Wowereit in 2006 as “poor but sexy,” Berlin continues to be a city of contrasts. Dating from the thirteenth century, Germany’s capital has endured major historical events that have left their mark, most recently the Berlin Wall that divided the city. Post-1989, Berlin has kept its multiple theatres, galleries and museum, becoming a cultural and economic hub. Its combination of glamour and grit, culture, great food and clubs makes it a drawcard for artists, writers and creatives.

This unit takes students out of the classrooms and into major world cities to explore not only the history of architecture and public space but also the galleries, collections and artworks housed in the city. It offers a vital opportunity for students to learn with and from artworks, buildings, spaces and monuments in situ.


Shock of the Now: Global Art since 1900 ARHT1002

Art shapes our cities, streets, galleries, phones and minds. It is now made with every conceivable material, and sometimes none at all. It shocks, challenges, soothes, entertains, engrosses and overwhelms us. This unit charts the history of Modern and Contemporary Art across the world, as it is shaped by and shapes society, politics and environment. It shows current concerns in art , with materials, landscape, self-image, politics, and the body are grounded in a century of global experiment

Why Art Matters ARHT2680 CORE UNIT

Why Art Matters explores the importance of art in the world, through object-based seminars, lectures and student led presentations. It asks why art is so fundamental to human experience, and how we might study it and articulate its importance. It builds key art historical skills of recognition, analysis, interpretation and expression, and introduces students to a wide variety of different material objects and artworks. The course is taught in small group streams, largely in the Chau Chak Wing museum and will help all majoring art history students build confidence and skill in researching, analysing and communicating about art.

Fashion and Dress: Past and Present ARHT2674

This unit offers an introduction to the study of dress through the discussion of major theories and methodologies that inform current scholarship in the field. With a focus on designers, wearers and cultural practices of dressing the body, the unit will question how dress communicates as a form of visual expression.

First Nations Art ARHT3679 NEW UNIT

TERRA VISITING PROFESSOR Gerald McMaster This unit explores the range and depth of First Nations Art globally with special attention to the Indigenous Art and visual culture of Australia and North America. It is designed to explore not only the material and formal features of First Nations' art but the social, cultural and spiritual traditions in which it is embedded and the understandings of time, space and country that inform First Nations art. It also explores the debates that have surrounded the notion and definition of "First Nations" art in recent years.

Dr Gerald McMaster is a TERRA Visiting Professor in 2023. Dr. McMaster is a leading voice nationally and internationally, with over 40 years of experience in contemporary art, critical theory, museology and Indigenous aesthetics. He is a Tier 1 Canadian Research Chair at OCAD University and Director of Wapatah Centre for Indigenous Visual Knowledge. In 2022, Dr. Gerald McMaster has been named by The Canada Council as the recipient of the 2022 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts for his Outstanding Contribution. He is Plains Cree from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation and a citizen of the Siksika Nation.

Text, Image, Sound: Islamic Book Arts ARHT3678

This unit provides a thematic study of historical and contemporary book arts in the Islamic world, drawing on the art of painting and calligraphy as well as key texts to engage with the foundational interrelations between text, image, orality and other forms of sensory experience. Starting with early Qur’ans, we move to pre-modern illustrated manuscripts, and modern and contemporary works of art inspired by manuscript cultures, exploring histories of authorship, portraiture, patronage, workshop practices, audience and perception, as well as the collecting and display of manuscripts in museums. Several site visits to Sydney’s various collections offer opportunities for object-based learning.

Art and the Aesthetics of the Everyday ARHT3673

Students study contemporary and historical art made in response to the ebb and flow of daily life and the material conditions of the street, the city, and the home. They study key texts of the art and politics of the everyday and topics related to the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century theory and practice. Students will focus on artists who heighten awareness of the banal and mundane, of the detritus of life, of gendered distinctions between home and city, and the paradoxical revelation of the marvelous in the everyday.


Honours in Art History focuses on establishing your individual research practice, further equipping you for employment or entry into the Master of Arts, Master of Philosophy or Doctor of Philosophy programs.

Art is the Issue: Histories and Theories ARHT4113

This unit concentrates on key developments in the history of art history as a discipline. The seminar centres on selected polemical texts and disputes in the discipline, to demonstrate that much of what all art historians do is contested and problematic. From the question of what we should study to the always vexed question of 'how' we should study it, the aim of this unit is to give you a sense of both the history and the problematic of the discipline in which you will be engaged whether you intend careers as scholars, researchers, curators, or art writers.

Vision and Frame: Art Encounters ARHT4114

This unit extends and tests students' art historical knowledge and analytic skills through in situ encounters with a variety of art objects and images, histories and traditions. These encounters are set against selected polemical texts and disputes in the discipline. Our weekly engagements range from the museum's modernist aesthetic hang, media specific exhibitions, de-materialised art projects, curated exhibitions, popular culture, Indigenous Australian and Chinese art.


The Art Curating or Museum and Heritage Studies Postgraduate degrees offer opportunities for those already in the sector to broaden their qualifications and for those seeking a career in the arts, cultural, museums and heritage sectors. Options include a Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma, or Masters level opportunities. Both degrees offer industry placements at leading institutions and dissertation options for those interested in arts and cultural research or PhD pathways.


Gain a sophisticated understanding of the full range of cultural, theoretical, social, political and economic issues underlying the art gallery and museum system. This degree offers a Capstone and Elective options in Industry Internships in partnership with leading institutions across Sydney and beyond. Several units are taught in collaboration with Sydney Cultural Institutions.


The Art Museum: Past, Present and Future ARHT6935 CORE UNIT

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. Lilian 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.

Contemporary Curating ARHT6960 CORE UNIT

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.

Ways of Curating: Exhibition and Display ARHT6932 NEW UNIT SELECTIVE/ELECTION OPTION

Exhibitions are the key medium through which art is displayed and interpreted as a prominent and diverse part of contemporary culture. This unit engages with current exhibitions in Sydney art museums and art spaces to interrogate textual, theoretical, and exhibition-based strategies. Students will critically engage with ways of thinking about curating from decolonisation, globalisation and communities, to historical, narrative, biographical, feminist, queer and activist models as they relate to current exhibitions in situ. A range of curatorial approaches will be analysed alongside historical and current art exhibition critique.

THIS NEW UNIT IS TAUGHT AT THE ART GALLERY OF NSW. Professor Terry Smith is an internationally renowned scholar and until recently the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. Terry is Professor in the Division of Philosophy, Art and Critical Thought at the European Graduate School and Faculty at Large in the Curatorial Program of the School of Visual Arts, New York.


Dr Yvonne Low This unit investigates the rising interest in Asian art by galleries, museums, bi/triennials and their audiences; it explores the politics and issues related to the circulation, exhibition and collection of modern and contemporary Asian art both inside and outside of Asia. Students will achieve a unique insight into institutional settings and curatorial practice in relation to Asian art both internationally and regionally. Critical attention is given to the global interaction between “Asia” and the West, with the aim to ultimately broaden the experience of students who are interested in curating aspects of pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Asian art.


Art Unseen: Addressing Absent Objects ARHT6962 NEW UNIT

Dr Mark de Vitis Art galleries, museums and archives are only ever able to display a fraction of their collection. Much of what they hold remains in basements and storage facilities and these works are rarely, if ever, seen. This unit will take students into those overlooked collection areas to understand how cultural institutions connect with the works in their care. Students will work with prominent collections to produce content to bring underrepresented collection areas, cultures and individual artists into the public eye. The unit will also explore the social, political and art historical issues of display, and the relationship between audiences and taste, and cultures of display. THIS UNIT IS RUN IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE POWERHOUSE MUSEUM


Working with Art: Objects in Focus ARHT6914 CORE UNIT

This unit introduces students to fundamental skills and issues in the study of art through object-based interpretation. It considers complexities and challenges related to the analysis, interpretation and display of individual works of art in the context of museums and galleries, and provides an introduction to the materials and techniques of art production from curatorial, public engagement and conservation perspectives. Students are supported to develop the ability to work closely with the physical art object, as classes will frequently take place in art galleries across Sydney. THIS UNIT IS RUN IN PARTNERSHIP AT THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART.

Writing for the Art and Museum Sector ARHT5902 SELECTIVE UNIT

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.

Exhibiting Australian Art ARHT6933 SELECTIVE/ELECTION OPTION

What is Australian Art? How are we to understand its changing form and focus from the time of colonisation to the present? Through gallery visits and selected case studies, this unit will examine how contemporary artists, curators and writers are re-imagining and re-seeing the history of Australian art. Current and past exhibitions and collection displays will be explored alongside recent approaches to writing the history of Australian art.

Film Theory: Art, Industry, Culture ARHT6930

The relation of film to industrial modernity is an ongoing issue for film theorists. With the advent of digital image processes and production the relation of art and industry has re-emerged with a new set of problems. How do we conceptualise the new forms? What theoretical and aesthetic language(s) do we draw on? And how best to rethink film in the face of rapid technological, formal and cultural change? These issues will be investigated via an examination of the history of film theory's attempts to formulate concepts adequate to the age of industrial modernity.


Museum and Heritage Studies will equip you with a contextual understanding of core historical and theoretical developments in museum and heritage studies. You will learn the frameworks for managing collections and sites and develop a practical understanding of the modes of interpretation used in the museum and heritage sector. This degree offers a Capstone and Elective options in Industry Internships in partnership with leading institutions and consultancies across Sydney and beyond.


Museums and Heritage History and Theory MHST6901 CORE UNIT

The historical, cultural and social roles of museums, heritage places and collections are the focus of contemporary debate. This unit examines the relationships between the production of cultural material, its management and display, and audience to understand museum and heritage sites as places of knowledge, politics and power. Current critical and theoretical perspectives incorporate ideas about the production, consumption, contestation and conservation of intangible values, identities, memories, cultural practices and different knowledge systems.

Managing Collection and Heritage Sites MHST6903 CORE UNIT

How museum collections and heritage places are managed and listed is a core function of cultural institutions. From global contexts, such as World Heritage, to national, regional and local museum collections and heritage lists, understanding how objects and places are documented, assessed, and registered is important for both museum and heritage practice. This unit introduces students to the theories and practices of collection and heritage management through current issues in the development, policy and maintenance of cultural collections and places.

Ethics of Cultural Property MUSM7035 SELECTIVE UNIT

This unit tracks the ethical and political disputes surrounding the ownership, control and care of cultural property. It begins by establishing historical attitudes towards cultural property which are then compared to current attempts to protect cultural heritage and regulate its movement. In doing so it considers how, more recently, museums have entered into dialogues with source communities about restitution and repatriation, new methods of display and ongoing relationships. The unit analyses numerous Australian and international case studies in order to define current models of best practice.

Museums and the Digital MUSM7036 SELECTIVE UNIT

This unit investigates the current use and adoption of digital media across the museum and gallery sectors internationally. It considers how museums use digital technologies to augment the visitor experience spatially, intellectually and socially by developing digitally interactive exhibitions, online engagement tools and a social media presence. Combining field trips, workshops, seminars and guest speakers, this course is an opportunity to build critical understanding of diverse applications of technology in the museum context and practical skills in the development of digital engagement programs.

Indigenous Museum and Heritage MHST6913 SELECTIVE UNIT

Globally, Indigenous peoples have challenged museums, heritage agencies and professional practitioners over issues of ownership, control, management, display and interpretation of Indigenous culture, history and cultural property. We will examine how Indigenous communities, scholars and practitioners are decolonising museum and heritage practices and spaces.


Museums and Heritage: Engaging Audiences MHST6902 CORE UNIT

Presenting collections, objects and places to the public is a major focus for museums, galleries and heritage organisations. The development of interpretation strategies and public programs to engage, educate and entertain audiences are regarded as key to the long-term viability of cultural institutions. This unit examines the theories and practices of museum education, heritage interpretation, audience research, communication and learning. The development and delivery of education, interpretation and visitor programs are examined in case studies and through practical work.

Museums and Heritage: Objects and Places MHST6904 CORE UNIT

Objects and heritage places (such as indigenous sites, historical buildings, parks, gardens, ruins, archaeological sites, memorials, cultural landscapes) can be studied from a range of multi-disciplinary approaches. In this unit students are introduced to different theoretical and methodological frameworks used in object and place analysis. Changing ideas about the roles and meanings of objects and places from historical, contemporary and cross-cultural perspectives will be introduced. Practical work and case studies will used to examine these issues.

Exhibition Development MUSM7030 SELECTIVE UNIT

Understanding display practices in museums is central to the functions of these cultural institutions. This unit of study examines the way in which exhibitions may function by exploring current issues and debates associated with the practice of exhibiting. We will consider how different spaces inform the interpretation of the cultural material and information displayed. In particular, we will examine the issue of representation as it relates to the museum context. This unit of study will provide students with an overview of the intellectual discourses and practical knowledge used to analyse, conceptualise, propose and develop exhibitions.

Museum and Gallery Administration MUSM7030 SELECTIVE UNIT

Good management is critical to the long-term survival of museums as vibrant cultural institutions. This unit of study explores the characteristics of a well managed facility providing students with the skills necessary to evaluate the operational context of museums, in terms of budget, human resource management and general cultural stewardship. The unit balances practical skill acquisition - in key management areas like strategic planning and project management - with a broader analysis of how the cultural sector is positioned in relation to government and other stakeholders.

Heritage Studies in Practice MHST6914 SELECTIVE UNIT

In this class students will focus on developing practical skills in researching, interpreting, and communicating cultural heritage. Work in this class emphasises primary research that will contribute to interpretation of a place or a collection. It will involve working directly on cultural heritage in a collection or place-based fieldwork. Students will carry out original research that will contribute to interpretation of real world cultural heritage.

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