MA Art & Material Histories

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Our MA Art & Material Histories course champions and promotes the study of Art Histories centred on the combined knowledge of academic and heuristic study, providing you with a balanced and holistic curriculum that meaningfully integrates historical, critical, cultural, ethical, professional and technical contexts.


Through a series of carefully structured lectures, seminars and visits, the course takes you through the history of material thinking from antiquity to the present day. Key ideas from within the history of philosophy, art and cultural theory, creative practice and conservation ethics will be examined, explored and opened up for discussion and interrogation. With a focus on critical thinking around the material turn, case studies, objects, artworks and collections will be examined in terms of their particular physical, historical, psychological and socio-political narratives, and considered in terms of the ethics and ideas surrounding their modes of preservation and display.


Alongside the more theoretical elements of the course, you will develop your material literacy ‘hands-on’. A series of workshops will provide experiential learning out of which a range of established ways of thinking about artworks will be questioned and developed. Material Matters, the Art School’s research platform that interrogates a different material on a biannual basis, will influence and shape the themes of this aspect of the course. A focused and imaginative art historical study of, for example, the essential qualities and purposes of pigment, clay, plastic, dust, the digital or waste, will be expanded through creative interrogation and experimentation. Innovative and exciting ways of researching, writing about and presenting findings will be introduced and explored through your engagement symposia and exhibitions.


Visiting lecturer, Laura White, is an artist and material thinker whose research explores our relationship with the material world. Here in a Zoom interview, Laura reflects on some of the many aspects of her teaching on the MA in Art & Material Histories at the Art School.

The course also offers you the opportunity to engage in a detailed and thorough exploration of a particular material, object or issue. You will be closely supported by tutors who will guide you through the process of researching, writing and presenting specialist interests to others. This aspect of the course will enable you to prepare and present a portfolio of written and curated work exploring a particular theme of your own choosing.


When you graduate from the course you’ll be prepared for the challenges, complexities and demands of professional practice or further study and the changing nature of employment in the arts. You’ll learn through a variety of approaches including academic study, workshop activity, group work, live projects and off-site visits to anticipate this, as you develop your academic practice underpinned by material exploration, experimentation, analysis and synthesis.

This MA leads to a range of employment opportunities, including freelance writing practice (which may involve working within a team), working to commission, and/or working across a range of different contexts. Our aim is to provide you with the resilience, flexibility and confidence you will need in order to tackle the challenges of a portfolio or academic career in the arts and heritage both now and in the future. We set out, therefore, to equip you with the important lifelong learning skills that will enable you to continue to develop as a practitioner and professional for the rest of your career.

Taught by a cross disciplinary team including specialists in the history of fine art, decoration and architecture as well as materials scientists, curators and arts practitioners, this course offers a dynamic approach to exploring the material turn within contemporary art historical thinking.

The MA Art & Material Histories course runs throughout a full year, from September to September.

Here you can find the Course Handbook.



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