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Sotheby's Institute of Art

Key Concepts Through Time: art History Intensive

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About the course

This eight-week course examines key concepts in art history and art theory. Clear and concise weekly themes provide a framework to discuss a range of art objects selected from a variety of geographical areas.

The course begins with an exploration of different timelines within art history. After that, each week surveys different forms of representation, analyzing how they have developed from the iconic works of the Old Masters to the innovative practices of contemporary artists today. This structure provides you with the necessary background and tools to confidently address complex subjects in art history, art criticism, curatorial work, and collecting—all indispensable to anyone wishing to expand their knowledge of art, or pursuing a professional career in the art world.

What you will learn:

  • A general overview of the history and development of Modern and contemporary art.
  • The ability to analyze the formal and contextual qualities of a work of art and evaluate its importance in a variety of historical and social contexts.
  • Knowledge of the visual vocabulary used to identify and discuss specific art forms, techniques, styles, periods, or movements.
  • The skills to critically compare and contrast the works, periods, and movements studied.

Sample Topics

Week 1: A Timeline of Art History

  • The Essential Chronology: From Cave Painting to Today
  • Identification of Key Periods and Movements in Arts
  • Considering Western Art History in the Broader Context of World-Wide Perspectives

Week 2: An Artist’s Choice of Materials

  • From Braque’s Collage to Duchamp’s Readymade Objects to Today
  • The Challenges and Opportunities Provided by a Range of Unusual Artistic Media and Surfaces

Week 3: Issues of Representation

  • Artistic Production and the Opposed Polarities of Abstraction and Realism
  • How to Build Confidence when Assessing Aesthetic Qualities

Week 4: Beauty

  • The Rejection of Classical Beauty
  • Embracing the Conceptual Approaches
  • Does Ugliness Have a Value?

Week 5: Power Matters

  • Everday Objects as Legitimate Works of Art
  • Power Relations
  • The Demise of History and the Emergence of Everyday Art

Week 6: Engagement and Participation

  • New Conceptions of Engagement and Participation
  • Discovering Personal, Collective and Political Realities through Art

Week 7: Gender Politics

  • Historic Gender Roles in Art
  • Focus on the Rise of Feminism, Queer Theory and the New Masculinities in Contemporary Art

Week 8: The Question of Identity

  • Construction of Identities through the Process of Documentation and Juxtaposition
  • Discovering New Identities
  • How Can Contemporary Art Guide Our Understanding of Who We Are and Where We Are Going

Trust the experts

Giovanni Aloi

PhD, MA, Goldsmiths, University of London Dr. Giovanni Aloi is an art historian specializing in the history and theory of photography, representation of nature, and everyday objects in art. He has published with Columbia University Press, Phaidon, Laurence King, and Prestel and has been appointe...


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