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BA Art History and English Literature

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Art Spaces

Unit code AHCP10051
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Art History and Cultural Practices
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course considers the spaces that have mediated artworks in the West from the Renaissance to the present. We will examine institutions of production, distribution and reception, from architectural spaces such as the church, the museum, the academy, the studio, the biennial, to the textual or virtual spaces of print, broadcast and digital media. These institutions determine the way we see things. To address these spaces is a necessary first move for critical thinking about the place of art in society.


The course aims to introduce students to the institutions that have framed artworks in the West from the Renaissance to the present day. Students will develop skills in thinking critically and historically about how institutions determine the value and meaning of artworks, while improving their ability to communicate complex ideas about art in precise and engaging ways.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students should/will be able to:


The course will be a mixture of lectures and seminars: each week there will be a 1 hour lecture followed by a 2 hour seminar. Projected lectures (and class trip) include:

1. Introduction

2. Sacred Spaces

3. The Origins of the Museum

4. Art in Print

5. The Academy

6. Class trip

7. From the Salon to the Expanded Field

8. The Studio and Beyond

9. The Art Press

10. Television and the Internet

11. The Art Fair and the Biennial

12. Conclusion

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures and seminars

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a general knowledge of the institutions that have mediated artworks in the West in the period from the Renaissance to the present
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of how institutions determine the meaning and value of artworks
  • Demonstrate an understanding of art spaces based on close observations of particular examples

Intellectual skills

  • Critically analyse the relation between artworks and their places of production, distribution and reception
  • Critically analyse critical, historical, and journalistic texts and films
  • Synthesise a range of textual sources while maintaining an independent critical position
  • Relate artistic developments of the period to broader patterns of historical and cultural change
  • Reflect critically on the nature of art history as a discipline
  • Think independently and imaginatively

Practical skills

  • Define a viable topic for collaborative research and plan a structured timetable
  • Undertake individual and collaborative research using a range of resources: galleries, journals, books, the internet
  • Present research engagingly and coherently
  • Work collaboratively with peers and participate fully in class discussions
  • Seek and accept feedback from other students and the course tutor, and use this feedback to reflect on and improve one’s performance
  • Recall and rework complex information and arguments in an examination

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Work alone or collaboratively
  • Meet deadlines and take responsibility for one’s own work
  • Express ideas clearly in written and spoken form
  • Use IT resources for research and communication

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%
Project output (not diss/n) 20%

Feedback methods

  • Oral feedback on group presentation
  • Written feedback on essays
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

Indicative Reading (Topics can vary from year to year):

  • John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972.
  • Daniel Buren, 'The Function of the Studio', October 10, 1979, 51-58
  • Thomas Crow, Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987
  • Devotion by Design, Ex. cat. National Gallery, London, 2011
  • Angela Dimitrakaki, 'Art, Globalisation and the Exhibition Form', Third Text 26, 3, 305-319
  • Carol Duncan, Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums, London and New York: Routledge, 1995
  • Alix Rule and David Levine, 'International Art English', Triple Canopy 16, 2012 
  • Brian O'Doherty, Inside the White Cube: the ideology of the gallery space, Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 2000
  • Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago (eds), Grasping the World: the idea of the musem, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
External visits 4
Lectures 22
Seminars 8
Independent study hours
Independent study 166

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Charles Miller Unit coordinator

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