Courses in

Creative Arts and Media

Contemporary Art Theory

Introduction to Contemporary Art Theory

Level 6, Semester II, 5 Credits

Why Study?: 

This module concentrates on the main themes and debates surrounding modern and contemporary art.

It introduces key skills in visual analysis, the contested nature of meaning in art, the tensions between fine art and popular culture, and the changing status of the artist.

The core theme is that it is not possible to understand why contemporary art takes the form it does without an appreciation of the themes and debates of earlier 20th Century art.

Programme Modules: 

  1. Introduction to Contemporary Art Theory programme
  2. How to view an artwork: Description
  3. How to view an artwork: Interpretation
  4. How to view an artwork: Evaluation
  5. What is Contemporary Art Theory?
  6. Art, knowledge and debate
  7. New art history, high art and popular culture
  8. Introduction to semiotics
  9. Analysing advertisements
  10. Understanding photography
  11. Classical aesthetics: Plato and Aristotle
  12. Renaissance artists and patronage
  13. From the Academy to the revolution
  14. Kant's aesthetics
  15. Modernism and the avant-garde
  16. Modernism and cinema
  17. Varieties of modernism: Marx, Nietzsche and Freud
  18. Postmodernism and the rise of identity politics
  19. Gender and art: 'Why have there been no great women artists?'
  20. Gender and art 2: Gender, Art and Psychoanalysis
  21. Critiques of postmodernism: Robert Hughes and Donald Kuspit
  22. Conceptualism
  23. Contemporary Photography

Learning Outcomes: 

On completion of this module the learner will/should be able to
1. Understand the key themes and debates defining modern and contemporary art.
2. Acquire critical skills in describing, interpreting and evaluating visual artefacts.
3. Attain an understanding of the tensions between fine art and popular culture.
4. Acquire an understanding of the changing status of the artist from the early Renaissance to the present.
5. Acquire a basic understanding of the history of aesthetic ideas.
6. Use core skills in critical analysis and thought through an understanding of the essay format.
7. Develop further knowledge based research skills to enable independent enquiry in making and viewing art.
8. Situate their own knowledge, practice and understanding within the wider cultural and historical framework.

Other Essential Information: 

Duration: 3 hrs
Time: 6.30-9.30pm/Tuesdays – Semester II
Start date: Tuesday, 16th January, 2018



Discipline: Creative Arts and Media

Location: Mayo

NFQ Level: 6

Category: Single Subject


Lifelong Learning, GMIT Mayo
Phone: + 353 (0)94 904 3156