Arts & Culture: Contemporary Art History

Study the art of the present
Programme ofKunst- en Cultuurwetenschappen / Arts and Culture
TitleContemporary Art History

The Master's programme Contemporary Art History focuses on the visual, process-based, and digital art since the 1960s. This specialization trains you as an art historian who is equipped to tackle this complex but fascinating field. After completing this programme, you will have a solid knowledge of today’s visual, process-based, and digital art. You will also be equipped with skills to do research, present, and write about today's art, enabling you to pursue a career in the cultural sector (museums, festivals, art galleries, archives), as art critic, or freelance cultural entrepreneur.

Today’s art includes installation art and site-specific projects, digital or new media art (interactive installations, locative media works, software art, networked art, electronic art and video art), performative and activist projects and artistic research.

What unites these art forms is that they directly address the complexity of today’s society, within which information technologies and globalization play an ever-increasing role, leading to networked forms of artistic practice that transgress national and cultural borders. At the same time, artists are very aware of the heritage they build upon, deconstruct, commenting on, or appropriating art history, leading to various attempts to describe contemporary art with terms such as post-modern, post-conceptual, post-medium, and more recently even post-internet and post-digital – and post-contemporary.

Anna Torp-Pedersen

"Anna_Torp_PedersenThe programme has allowed me to expand on my Bachelor’s degree in art history with a completely different teaching structure. Teachers have always been generous with their time and feedback. I have appreciated the opportunities that were presented to me, for example being put forward to be part of the curatorial team in an exhibition and becoming an editor for the art journal Kunstlicht."

Study programme

Mandatory classes
You will kick off your first semester by self-critically questioning your role as an art historian with a specific interest in contemporary art by following a class on ‘Methods and Theories of Art History’ in the first period. Parallel to this, you will follow a research seminar dedicated to a specific topic within contemporary art, in order to immediately get started in developing your knowledge of the field and to improve your research and writing skills. While this class continues in the second period, the second period will also allow you to delve into the depth of digital and process-based art while following a class specifically dedicated to new media art.

While the major part of the second semester will be dedicated to supporting you in writing your MA thesis, in period four you will follow a class on art criticism to further develop your skills in writing and in critically assessing contemporary art. You’ll also follow our Arts & Culture Lecture Series class (Trending Topics), inviting you to reflect on recent issues in our field by listening to renowned international guest speakers and discussing their writing with fellow students from different specializations. Last but not least, you’ll go on a field trip to a foreign country, to prove and further develop your analytical skills onsite.

Electives
Furthermore, you can select a class from a range of electives, such as the classes ‘Reading Concepts of Intermediality’, ‘Crossmedial Exhibitions’, or ‘Media Aesthetics’ offered in the framework of the CAMS programme. You can also choose from the specializations ‘Kunst, Markt, en Connaisseurschap’ (in Dutch) or ‘Design Cultures’ or a class on ‘Collecting and Display, as well as further electives from Philosophy or Literary Studies.

Why study at VU?

Study the art of the present
In selecting this specialization you devote your attention to what is at stake now – to artworks that take on the challenges of the globalized information society. You do so from a firm basis in an established discipline that has much to offer, but also to continuously adapt in seeking to keep up with the art of the present.

Unique in the Netherlands and ideally located in Amsterdam
Contemporary Art History is unique in the Netherlands in allowing students to research digital and process-based art in the broader context of contemporary art history. The Netherlands, and Amsterdam especially, has been a pioneer in supporting contemporary artistic practice, and new media art in particular. You can profit from the extensive archives and digital collections on site, such as the collection of the Netherlands Institute for Media Art (at LIMA) or the video art collections of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and De Appel Arts Center. You can attend festivals such as Sonic Acts, FIBER, or IMPAKT and the various public programs offered all year round by Dutch contemporary art institutions to  experience performative and digital practices first-hand, and frequent exhibitions of new media art all around the Netherlands. The same is true for contemporary art in general, with Amsterdam as a central hub for art and culture.

Profit from top-quality researchers as your teachers
The staff members teaching within the MA program are top-quality researchers with a strong national and international profile, particularly in the field of contemporary art. They draw on a firm background in art history, but have broadened their involvement in neighboring fields such as media theory, performance studies, and critical theory.

Further define the focus of your study through the choice of electives 
By choosing electives from other specializations within and beyond the MA Arts & Culture, you can tailor your study program to your specific interests and profit from the expert knowledge of staff members in the areas of film, games, television, curatorial studies, (early) modern art history, the art market, design, media theory, literature, history, and philosophy.

Become a member of a vibrant student community and profit from the offers of our Graduate School and Research Institutes
Not only via the mandatory Arts & Culture lecture series class and your choice of electives,  but also through various events and seminars offered by the Graduate School and by our Interfaculty Research Institutes (CLUE+ and Network Institute), you will study in close contact with students and staff across the faculty. As Contemporary Art History is taught in English, you will be part of an international classroom environment, in contact with students from all over the world.

Your future career


Prepare for a career in the cultural sector, art festivals, exhibitions and galleries, art journalism, or the creative industries. Contemporary Art History equips you with skills and critical insight to be able to comment on, judge, present, and write about art in the information age in an independent and critical manner. The program thereby prepares you for a position in which substantial knowledge and research skills in the field of contemporary and digital art are required, such as organizing exhibitions, events, or festivals, writing about art for newspapers, magazines or online-media, working in public programming or educational departments of museums, the city council, festival organizations, in public or private archives, or pursue research on a freelance basis or within academia.

Study programme

Mandatory classes
You will kick off your first semester by self-critically questioning your role as an art historian with a specific interest in contemporary art by following a class on ‘Methods and Theories of Art History’ in the first period. Parallel to this, you will follow a research seminar dedicated to a specific topic within contemporary art, in order to immediately get started in developing your knowledge of the field and to improve your research and writing skills. While this class continues in the second period, the second period will also allow you to delve into the depth of digital and process-based art while following a class specifically dedicated to new media art.

While the major part of the second semester will be dedicated to supporting you in writing your MA thesis, in period four you will follow a class on art criticism to further develop your skills in writing and in critically assessing contemporary art. You’ll also follow our Arts & Culture Lecture Series class (Trending Topics), inviting you to reflect on recent issues in our field by listening to renowned international guest speakers and discussing their writing with fellow students from different specializations. Last but not least, you’ll go on a field trip to a foreign country, to prove and further develop your analytical skills onsite.

Electives
Furthermore, you can select a class from a range of electives, such as the classes ‘Reading Concepts of Intermediality’, ‘Crossmedial Exhibitions’, or ‘Media Aesthetics’ offered in the framework of the CAMS programme. You can also choose from the specializations ‘Kunst, Markt, en Connaisseurschap’ (in Dutch) or ‘Design Cultures’ or a class on ‘Collecting and Display, as well as further electives from Philosophy or Literary Studies.

Why study at VU?

Study the art of the present
In selecting this specialization you devote your attention to what is at stake now – to artworks that take on the challenges of the globalized information society. You do so from a firm basis in an established discipline that has much to offer, but also to continuously adapt in seeking to keep up with the art of the present.

Unique in the Netherlands and ideally located in Amsterdam
Contemporary Art History is unique in the Netherlands in allowing students to research digital and process-based art in the broader context of contemporary art history. The Netherlands, and Amsterdam especially, has been a pioneer in supporting contemporary artistic practice, and new media art in particular. You can profit from the extensive archives and digital collections on site, such as the collection of the Netherlands Institute for Media Art (at LIMA) or the video art collections of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and De Appel Arts Center. You can attend festivals such as Sonic Acts, FIBER, or IMPAKT and the various public programs offered all year round by Dutch contemporary art institutions to  experience performative and digital practices first-hand, and frequent exhibitions of new media art all around the Netherlands. The same is true for contemporary art in general, with Amsterdam as a central hub for art and culture.

Profit from top-quality researchers as your teachers
The staff members teaching within the MA program are top-quality researchers with a strong national and international profile, particularly in the field of contemporary art. They draw on a firm background in art history, but have broadened their involvement in neighboring fields such as media theory, performance studies, and critical theory.

Further define the focus of your study through the choice of electives 
By choosing electives from other specializations within and beyond the MA Arts & Culture, you can tailor your study program to your specific interests and profit from the expert knowledge of staff members in the areas of film, games, television, curatorial studies, (early) modern art history, the art market, design, media theory, literature, history, and philosophy.

Become a member of a vibrant student community and profit from the offers of our Graduate School and Research Institutes
Not only via the mandatory Arts & Culture lecture series class and your choice of electives,  but also through various events and seminars offered by the Graduate School and by our Interfaculty Research Institutes (CLUE+ and Network Institute), you will study in close contact with students and staff across the faculty. As Contemporary Art History is taught in English, you will be part of an international classroom environment, in contact with students from all over the world.

Your future career


Prepare for a career in the cultural sector, art festivals, exhibitions and galleries, art journalism, or the creative industries. Contemporary Art History equips you with skills and critical insight to be able to comment on, judge, present, and write about art in the information age in an independent and critical manner. The program thereby prepares you for a position in which substantial knowledge and research skills in the field of contemporary and digital art are required, such as organizing exhibitions, events, or festivals, writing about art for newspapers, magazines or online-media, working in public programming or educational departments of museums, the city council, festival organizations, in public or private archives, or pursue research on a freelance basis or within academia.

Caroline Holloway

Caroline_Holloway"The Contemporary Art History programme has really challenged my preconceptions of what art history is. Also, it has helped me to develop my own voice and not be afraid to take risks, forging my own path."

Dutch Students

Admission to the Master's Arts &Culture, specialization Contemporary Art History is possible with a Bachelor's degree in art history or equivalent (such as the VU’s own MKDA programme). If you have an academic Bachelor in the Humanities (history, media studies, philosophy, cultural studies), a solid background is required in art history/theory to be admitted to the programme. After you have submitted your application to the Admission Board, it will be decided if you are eligible directly, or if you may qualify for a Premaster's programme. 

Candidates with an HBO Bachelor's degree are obliged to follow a Premaster's programme.

Dutch students and international candidates with a Dutch degree can apply via Studielink before June 1st for the Master's programme Contemporary Art History under the label Kunst – en Cultuurwetenschappen (Arts & Culture).

All lectures and student presentations are in English, all written assignments as well. Therefore all prospective students must be proficient in English. The VU courses Academic English: Grammar and Academic English: Writing (or similar courses at another university) are strongly recommended in your Bachelor's programme.

After you have applied for the master in Studielink, you will receive two emails with your login details for VUnet (VU studentportal). Please complete your application in VUnet . Don’t forget to fill in your specialization on VUnet : Comparative Arts and Media Studies.

During this step you will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • Transcript of records (scan from original)
  • Course descriptions (i.e. for courses related to the discipline of the Master, and for courses on general academic skills)
  • List of literature (the most important literature used for the courses)
  • CV
  • Motivation letter (max. one A4)

Please prepare these documents before you're going to complete your application in VUnet!

Your application will be reviewed by the Admission Board of Faculty of Humanities. You will be informed whether you have been admitted via Studielink.

If you have successfully completed an applied Bachelor's degree programme (HBO) in art, art education, or a comparable field, and have followed classes in art history/theory of at least 30 credits, you can apply for the Contemporary Art History Premaster's programme.

The Premaster's programme starts in September and takes one year. Beware that the language of instruction is partly in Dutch and therefore, the programme is not accessible for students who don't speak Dutch.

Please visit the Premaster page for further information on applying for the Premaster's programme.

For questions about the programme
Please contact the programme coordinator:

Prof. dr. Katja Kwastek
E: k.kwastek@vu.nl


Come meet us at the next Master's Event!

Charlotte Fijen

Charlotte_Fijen"I have learned a lot from my international classmates. Since most of them are native English speakers my English improved a lot and my knowledge about contemporary art worldwide enlarged. The teachers involved in the programme teach with great enthusiasm and encourage students to research topics of their own interest. Like this the range of subjects discussed in class is very broad, similar to the contemporary art practices of today."

International students

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admissions Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application.

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent.

Specific admission requirements for the Master’s programme Contemporary Art History:
Admission to the Master's programme Contemporary Art History, specialization of Arts &Culture, is possible with a Bachelor's degree in art history or something equivalent.

If you have a Bachelor's degree in Humanities (history, media studies, philosophy, cultural studies), a solid background with a minimum of 60 credits is required in art history/theory to be admitted to the programme. In that case, the Faculty's Admissions Board will review whether you meet the admissions requirements.

The level of studied academic theory needs to be based on the course description, literature list and sample of academic writing, due to a lack of distinction between applied and academic universities abroad.

English
Students applying for a Master’s degree programme should be able to speak, read, write and understand English at an advanced academic level. Only students who have completed a full high school/International Baccalaureate in English or Bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. You can already apply online without having the test results.

The proficiency requirement in English can be met by the successful completion of one of the following examinations, with the scores indicated:

  • TOEFL score (score 600 paper based with a minimum of 55 in each of the subtests plus 4.0 in TWE, score 250 computer based or score 100 internet based with a minimum of 20-23 in each of the subtests).
  • IELTS score of 7.0 overall band score (with none of the separate section scores dropping below a minimum score of 6.5).
  • Cambridge English : Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C, or Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C.

Please note: tests must have been completed no more than two years before the start of the programme.

See the Admission and language requirements page for further information on the general requirements.

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.

Step 1: Meet admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online
Please prepare the following documents. You can find an explanation of each document on the application page. All documents should be provided in English.

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation Letter
  • Transcript of records
  • Thesis (or another sample of academic writing, at least 5 pages plus a list of used literature)
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education
  • A list of all the main literature used during your previous higher education

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. After you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via email.

Step 3: Await decision on admission
The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!
Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. Here you will find an explanation what to do after admission. When all conditions are met you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Further information:
Accommodation
Visa
Tuition fees

For questions about the programme
Please contact the programme coordinator:

Prof. dr. Katja Kwastek
E: k.kwastek@vu.nl

For practical questions regarding your application, visa, work or other practical concerns
Please contact your International study advisor:

Irena Paap
T: +31 (20) 59 85252
E: masters.hum@vu.nl

Come meet us at the next Master's Event!

Some international students are happy to tell you about their experiences with living and studying in Amsterdam. These Student Ambassadors come from all over the world and have attended various bachelor's and master's programmes. 

Our student ambassadors are listed here on this webpage: vu.nl/ambassadors.

Reach out to them and get their stories about being a student at VU Amsterdam!

Ellen Smith

Ellen_Smith"I have enjoyed the collaborative learning approach in classrooms full of people from all over the world and from multiple disciplinary backgrounds. It has made for interesting discussions and fresh perspectives on contemporary art. The discursive format and structure of the courses has allowed me to gain confidence in my ability to articulate my thoughts and has also allowed me to develop my presentation skills. Both I can see aiding me in the future."

Kiko Aebi

Kiko_Aebi"The programme attracted me because of the location in vibrant Amsterdam and its global and cross-disciplinary focus on contemporary art. The teachers have always been very accommodating in allowing me to map my own path in terms of course choices and research interests."

Overview Arts & Culture: Contemporary Art History

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION

English

DURATION

1 year

TUITION FEE

APPLICATION DEADLINE

1 June

START DATE

1 September

STUDY TYPE

Full-time

FIELD OF INTEREST

Art, Culture and History