History + Theory of Contemporary Art

SFAI’s History and Theory of Contemporary Art (HTCA) program provides an in-depth critical understanding of the history of the ideas, conditions, institutions, and discourses surrounding contemporary art and culture, and the ways that these factors inform the study, interpretation, analysis and exhibition of art today.

Housed in one of the oldest art schools in the county, the program offers students the unique opportunity to develop these studies while mingling with the ghosts of (post)modernism and working side-by-side with current, practicing artists and scholars.

The HTCA BA curriculum provides students with a thorough understanding of the long, global history of art, which is complemented by advanced, topic-based seminars in contemporary art history and theory, and by public programs designed to directly introduce students to a broad variety of transnational artists and scholars. At the program’s end, students pursue a sustained research project of their own design as the culminating capstone to their degree.

Emphasizing research, writing, critical thinking, and methods of analysis that value cultural and social difference, HTCA prepares students to become advanced critics and scholars of art history and theory in a global context.

Past Courses

  • Art Since 1945
  • Dance History: 1960s to Present
  • Global Anxieties: Sculpture’s Disappearances, 1957–1980
  • African Art, Myth, and Religion
  • Dialogues in Contemporary Art: Theory and Practice
  • Queer Visual Politics
  • Revolution in Our Lifetime: A Visual History of 1968 and Beyond
  • Shock Me (If You Can)


See a sample four-year academic plan in the BA in History + Theory of Contemporary Art  program to help you decide what courses to take when.

Total: 120

Title Units
Liberal Arts Requirements 33
Art History, Theory & Criticism Requirements 54
Studio Requirements 12
General Electives 21

Studio Requirements

Title Units
Contemporary Practice 3
Electives in any studio discipline 9

Art History, Theory & Criticism Requirements

Title Units
Global Art History 3
Modernity and Modernism 3
Art Since 1945 3
Dialogues in Contemporary Art 3
Art History Electives 21
Critical Studies Electives 15
Interdisciplinary Research Colloquium 3
Thesis Colloquium 3