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Art Museums in a Global Age


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor: Dr Sarah Thomas
  • Assessment: a 5000-word essay (100%)

Module description

In this module we offer a critical analysis of the ways in which art museums continue to negotiate their relationship with globalisation. We ask:

  • What might be some of the consequences of globalisation for both art and its institutions?
  • Can art history ever be global, and if so, how?
  • What might a 'world art' look like and who would be its gatekeepers?

In the last few years major exhibitions have focused on a wide range of subjects, including global pop art, art from the Black Atlantic, Latin American Post-minimalism and Moscow Conceptualism. In this module we will consider the future of art's institutions, traditions, objects, and canons in a global world.

Indicative syllabus

  • An introduction to globalisation and its impact on public art museums
  • Art and mobility: a globalist history of art
  • Challenging the canon: the expansion of collecting policies in Western art museums to embrace the arts of Africa, Oceania, South America and Asia
  • Tate and internationalism: class visit to Tate Modern
  • Art v. ethnography: challenging the 'West and the rest' model
  • A museum 'of the world, for the world': class visit to the British Museum
  • Branding: the 'McGuggenheim' phenomenon
  • The artist's voice: contemporary art and globalisation
  • The global art market
  • World's Art Fairs: the rise and rise of the Biennale
  • 'World Art' and the future of art history

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • understand the impact of economic globalisation on international art museums
  • understand and be able to critically evaluate some of the moral and intellectual challenges associated with such major international shifts
  • have acquired a broad awareness of key contemporary debates in the international art museum world
  • have developed appropriate historical and theoretical frameworks and approaches for study
  • be able to analyse a text, summarise its arguments, evaluate it critically and apply it in the development of an argument
  • have presented a cogent critical argument in a verbal and written form, showing knowledge of the relevant literature
  • be able to access and understand museum policies
  • be able to write an essay on a related topic at MA level, demonstrating an awareness of the main issues and debates in the field
  • have discussed critically texts, exhibition techniques, institutional practices and ideas, in a seminar context.