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)

Curriculum

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

Program Learning Outcomes

  • Students demonstrate a thorough grounding in the liberal arts and an informed acquaintance with quantitative forms of analysis — as assessed by written assignments, class presentations, and projects.
  • Students demonstrate general, global knowledge of the history of art and visual culture and substantial and rigorous, cross-cultural knowledge of contemporary artists, art practices, artworks, and exhibitions, with special attention paid to how these discourses and historical figures intersect with critical conversations concerning the production of space — as assessed by analytical written assignments, class presentations and projects that require students to mobilize appropriate theories and criticisms of art.
  • Students demonstrate the ability to situate the discourses of art history and visual culture vis-à-vis other disciplines within the liberal arts and natural sciences, and across a variety of situated, globalized perspectives—as assessed by written course assignments, class presentations and projects, and the BA Senior Thesis Project.
  • Students demonstrate a thorough grounding in the methodological tools, analytical perspectives, and theoretical frameworks central to the discourses of art history and visual culture — as assessed by written course assignments, class presentations and projects and the successful completion of the Interdisciplinary Research Colloquium and the BA Senior Thesis Project.
  • Students demonstrate functional knowledge of the creative process and of the value of creating synergy between a creative practice and rigorous academic investigation — as assessed by successful completion of 12-Credits of studio art courses.
  • Students demonstrate an increasingly nuanced and principled understanding of the possible roles of art and the artist in the world, including roles as agents of social and cultural change — as assessed by written course assignments, class presentations and projects and the BA Senior Thesis Project.