exhibition and museum studies
We live during a cultural moment in which every aspect of life is displayed, interpreted and consumed.
Museums and exhibition spaces are no longer simply white boxes—they now also encompass streets, vacant storefronts, pop-up shops, digital networks, interactive components, and alternative environments, and serve as sites of artistic experimentation. This global “spectaclization” has become a new challenge for contemporary art.
SFAI’s Exhibition and Museum Studies (EMS) program provides students with the historical, theoretical, and practical understanding necessary to thrive in this complex network of culture and commerce. Grounded in research and critique, the program examines exhibitions as a core element in the system of artistic production and proliferation. Courses turn an analytical eye to topics such as museums’ roots in modernity and the rise of capitalism, innovative curatorial practices, and the shifting global art scene, while lectures, symposia, practicums, and national and international excursions further expand students’ horizons. Students cap their studies with a unique dual thesis requirement: one part individual written work (Thesis I), and one part collaborative project such as an exhibition, seminar, or publication (Thesis II).
Through the acclaimed exhibitions at SFAI’s Walter and McBean Galleries, the Visiting Artists and Scholars Lecture Series, and the Graduate Lecture Series, students are exposed to and interact with internationally renowned artists, curators, historians, critics, and other professionals. Our location in the Bay Area—an epicenter of innovation, as well as a gateway to the Pacific Rim, the most dynamic zone of economic and cultural growth in the world today—gives students access to an extraordinary number of institutions for both research and training. Graduates have gone on to earn major fellowships and work at top museums, biennales, foundations, and galleries, becoming active participants in the global community of contemporary art.