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Art Museums in a Global Age


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

Module description

This module offers a critical analysis of the ways in which art museums continue to negotiate their relationship with globalisation. It asks what some of the consequences of globalisation might be 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. This module considers the future of art's institutions, traditions, objects, and canons in a global world.

Indicative module 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.