Modern and Contemporary Art

The Department of Art History's programs in Modern and Contemporary Art are broad and distinctive, offering advanced study in the recent histories of American, Eastern and Western European, and Chinese Art. At the University of Chicago, the study of modern art and architecture focuses primarily, though not exclusively, on art produced in nineteenth- and twentieth-century China, England, France, Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union (Russia), and the United States. Our courses treat distinct historical periods with emphasis on questions of reception and spectatorship, criticality and the avant-garde, identity formation, the transformation of genres and media, as well as a contentious range of approaches to representation and the history of culture.

Our Program in contemporary art is global in its orientation, encompassing the art of the African Diaspora, East Asia, and the former Soviet Union, though we maintain a longstanding and vigorous commitment to the study of post-war American and European art. In our coursework and workshop programs, we strive to grapple with diverse and contested terrain of art in the twenty-first century, concentrating on the evolving roles of art institutions, the theorization of race and gender in art historical accounts of the recent past, the role of consumer culture in transformations of artistic production, and the ongoing globalization of the art world's discursive networks.

An unusually wide range of media are encompassed by the Modern and Contemporary programs. Faculty work on the history, theory, and criticism of architecture, design, installation art, painting and sculpture, as well as the history of film, photography, and new media. Together we train scholars to navigate the challenges that arise when interpreting art and media in the modern era, while cultivating a sensitivity to art history's fundamental methodologies and its distinctive contributions to humanistic study. Thus, our students become thoroughly acquainted with the practices of archival and historical research within a rigorous and critical environment that places great value on the student's original contribution to the analysis and interpretation of modern and contemporary art.