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The New Art and Cultures of Display around 1900


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Dr Charlotte Ashby
  • Assessment: a 3000-word class essay (67%) and three-hour examination (33%)

Module description

On this module we explore the transformation of European art culture around 1900, with its explosion of new movements:

  • Art Nouveau
  • Symbolism
  • Modernism.

We will focus on the role of exhibitions in propelling and expressing these new visions. New cultures of display were central to the way these new art movements sought to communicate their ideas about art and design’s role in the world. Breakaway artist exhibition societies pursued a new synthesis across art forms and experiments in experience design.

We will also look at the global traffic in art and artefacts from territories colonised by the European powers and the role of display and encounter with these objects in challenging European understanding of art.

Indicative syllabus

  • Art for art’s sake and the exhibition strategies of new exhibition societies
  • World’s fairs: art and nations
  • Colonial exhibitions: art and power
  • Art education: forming national collections
  • Design as art: educating the consumer
  • Art and commerce: department stores and magazines
  • Text and image: art journals as curated spaces
  • Exhibition and manifesto: avant-garde self-positioning
  • Collecting and display: the market and private collections
  • Dada and the anti-exhibition

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • engage with the concepts, values and debates that inform the study and practice of the history of art around 1900
  • analyse, describe and interpret objects, images, buildings and artefacts closely and systematically
  • show understanding of the objects, contexts and issues relevant to histories of display and new directions taken in the arts around 1900
  • select relevant evidence used in the history of art and apply it to the examination of art historical issues and problems related to developments in art and design around 1900.