About the course
Our MA Curating offers a practical and theoretical training in devising and curating exhibitions, as you work towards the preparation of an exhibition at our on-site Art Exchange gallery.
Our course combines practice, theory and histories of curating in equal measure. You will develop an essential base skills for a successful exhibition – from object handling to managing exhibition budgets – through visiting lectures by active museum professionals; practical workshops using our on-site collection and galleries; and competitive placements at leading institutions. Previous students have worked at the V&A, Royal Academy of Arts and Firstsite Gallery.
You will build your own confident grasp of the history and theory of exhibition-making, studying with academics who besides being active curators are producing new key texts on the curatorial history and theory. You study topics including:
- How an exhibition can be used as a means of social or political critique
- The historical role that museums have played in society
- Participation and social engagement between spectators, artists and curators
- A choice of history of art options
One of the major reasons for choosing Essex is the quality of the education you will receive. Our Art History programme is 6th in the UK for research excellence, with 89% of our work rated “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (REF 2014), and we achieved an exceptional 95% student satisfaction in the 2016 National Student Survey.
Our expert staff
Our staff consists of a dynamic group of art historians. While our research interests span a range of cultures and media, from the early modern to the present, core specialties include exhibition design, modern and contemporary art, public engagement and activism.
Here are a few examples of recent or current projects by staff members:
- Dr Gavin Grindon, Lecturer in Art History and co-director of our Centre for Curatorial Studies, recently co-curated the Disobedient Objects exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, one of the best attended shows in the museum’s history. He has also widely published on activist art in leading journals such as Art History and recently co-curated Banksy's Museum of Colonialism at The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem.
- Dr Adrian Locke, a Visiting Fellow in Art History and Senior Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, has curated a diverse range of exhibitions, including Mexico: A Revolution in Art, 1910–1940 (2013) and Radical Geometry: Modern Art of South American from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection (2014). He also co-curated the exhibition Ai Weiwei, which opens at the Royal Academy in September 2015.
- Dr Matt Lodder, Lecturer in Art History with an emphasis on modern and contemporary visual culture, is co-curating the exhibition Tattoo: Ancient Myths, Modern Meanings, which opens next year in the U.S.
- Dr Michael Tymkiw, co-director of the Centre for Curatorial Studies, has a book under contract entitled Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism. He has also just launched an interdisciplinary research project that focuses on using digital technologies to expand disability access in museums—a project that involves collaborations with several museums in Colchester and London including firstsite and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
At Essex, you have the best of both worlds: on the one hand, you are part of a tight-knit, campus community with close ties to several small but excellent museums in the nearby town of Colchester; on the other hand, you can travel from campus to London in an hour, which puts the world’s best museums and galleries at your fingertips.
Our facilities enable you to gain curatorial experience and engage in object-based learning, a cornerstone of our approach when teaching the history of art and its modes of display:
- Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is the most comprehensive Latin American art research resource in the UK and has a state-of-the-art teaching and research space. Many of our students gain work and research experience through our collection
- Our onsite gallery Art Exchange runs an ongoing programme of contemporary art exhibitions, talks and workshops by curators and artists, as well as exhibitions organised by our postgraduate curatorial students
- Colchester’s iconic Firstsite gallery features an exciting programme of contemporary art exhibitions, film screenings and talks, and exhibitions organised by our curatorial students
- Our Centre for Curatorial Studies is home to staff who specialise in the history of exhibition design and curate high-profile exhibitions
The visual arts and culture industries have become an increasingly significant part of the national and international economy, and our art history graduates leave Essex with the skills to take advantage of this growing opportunity.
Graduates from our programmes are ideally prepared for roles in the media, in advertising, in museums and galleries, in education (in schools, universities, and cultural institutions), as conservators, as auctioneers, dealers and antiques specialists, in charities, in publishing, as specialist arts lawyers, as PR agents, in fashion, or to run their own galleries.
Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies including:
- National Portrait Gallery
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- Sotheby’s New York
- Momart Ltd
- John Lewis
We also offer research supervision for PhD and MPhil for those who want to continue with research. We cover the major areas of European art and architecture from 1300 to the present, as well as the art and architecture of Latin America and the United States.
We work with our university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
Postgraduate study is the chance to take your education to the next level. The combination of compulsory and optional modules means our courses help you develop extensive knowledge in your chosen discipline, whilst providing plenty of freedom to pursue your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.
For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are, in many instances, just a selection of those available. Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current postgraduate students, including details of all optional modules.
If you choose to undertake the exhibition option, you will submit a written report on your project. This report will serve, not just as a detailed description and analysis of the exhibition project, but as a tool to evaluate and assess your own role and performance within your group, and a means to develop a critical response your findings.
Learn the nuts and bolts of managing galleries and exhibition projects through this series of lectures and workshops. Each session is designed to teach you an essential skill (e.g., preparing an exhibition proposal; borrowing artworks; writing press releases). The module puts you a step ahead in the job market by demystifying what really happens behind the scenes in museums and galleries.
Want to do more than hang pretty pictures on a pleasantly coloured wall? Then take this module to learn how curators and designers from the 1920s onward have turned exhibition spaces into site of social and political critique -- a practice now often subsumed under the concept of ‘critical curating’. Organised chronologically, the module gives you the chance to hone your understanding of the complex relationship between critique and curating, generally by situating major exhibitions and paradigmatic curatorial concepts in relation to key texts of critical theory.
Inside out: what does it mean? Reversal? Separation? Exclusion? Use the notion of inside out as a conceptual framework to investigate how different forms of reversal, separation, and exclusion have shaped curatorial practices.
In 2013, both Jeff Koons and Zaha Hadid designed yachts for obscenely wealthy collectors. At the same time, members of the activist art group, Pussy Riot languished in a Russian prison, charged with hooliganism over the artistic protests against the authoritarianism of the Putin government. How can we make sense of this moment in contemporary culture, where artistic means are directed to such diverse aesthetic, political, ethical, and social ends? Probe the relationship between art, politics and money in this series of weekly lectures.
This seminar explores the role of visual culture within popular religion in the cities of late Medieval and Renaissance Italy. We will challenge definitions of “art” and “popular religion”, especially the ways in which art history, as a discipline, has often interpreted popular religious art from this period through an artificial binary between “high culture” (e.g. altarpieces, sculptures and fresco cycles by well-known artists) and “low culture” (e.g. anonymous panel paintings, reliquaries, prints).
The disciplines of art, science, and knowledge have always been intimately linked, but details of their entanglement have often been ignored – and even occluded. Explore how they have mutually reinforced, reacted to, and/or been in tension with each other, by taking a look at the most significant makers, theorists and scientists during a particular period in history. Expect to cover topics such as ‘Contemporary Art and the Sciences’ and ‘The Medical Gaze in the Long Nineteenth Century’.
Get valuable real-life experience from inside the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America’s new teaching museum space. As well as discussing and analysing artworks from the collection, take on the exciting challenge of proposing a new acquisition for ESCALA. Whilst the task is hypothetical, if the committee decides to pursue the acquisition, you could be credited for your contribution.
Dancing bodies; protesting bodies; falling bodies: the relationship between moving bodies and images is a recurring subject for artists, philosophers, and art historians alike. This seminar shifts away from the iconography of the moving body to focus on the ‘moving image’. Images that investigate bodily movement through new visual technologies suggest the close relationship between representation, embodiment, and the act of beholding. From seventeenth-century fresco painting to twentieth-century performance art and film, students will read and discuss recent literature in philosophy and art history in relation to images of moving bodies that span early modern and modern art.
Take the exciting opportunity to develop and produce an exhibition at Art Exchange, our on-campus gallery. Work in small groups to manage the project, undertaking everything from fundraising to marketing, loaning artworks to publishing a catalogue, and delivering education and access initiatives to monitoring and evaluating your success. A diverse range of subjects have been explored in previous years, ranging from social history to historical fine art and contemporary art.
Prepare yourself for your dissertation and beyond with this module, composed of lectures and bespoke workshops. Learn how to tackle the challenges of research work and the techniques for planning it, and cover everything from ethics approval procedures, to CV writing and career development.
Cover some of the key subjects in art history between the Renaissance and the present day, with topics, carefully selected to benefit from the research-led, cutting edge discussions of important themes and authors. Topics in this broad module could include ‘Popular, Mass, and Lowbrow Arts: Histories, Theories and Approaches’ and ‘Sex and the City: Prostitution in Eighteenth Century London’.
Your final assessed coursework will consist of two interconnected parts: a research journal, and a portfolio of project proposals. The journal will include notes, images and reviews documenting the development of the ideas and issues central to your practice as a curator. This forms the core of the content for your proposals for curatorial projects, which is written up in your portfolio.
Choose an area of research with help from your supervisor, and write a dissertation of between 15,000 and 20,000 words.
- Full-time for one year or part-time over two years
- Gain practical experience in curating, such as handling and installing artworks
- Frequent visits to museums and galleries
- Two-hour seminars with discussion based on a programme of reading
- We run a number of mini-courses, research seminars and conferences that our postgraduates are encouraged to attend
- Assessment for our courses is normally on the basis of coursework and your supervised dissertation
- In place of a dissertation, you work towards the preparation of an exhibition at our on-site Art Exchange gallery
UK entry requirements
A degree with an overall high 2:2.
International and EU entry requirements
We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries.
for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the
undergraduate qualification you have already completed or are currently taking.
English language requirements
IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5 except for 6.0 in writing
If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.
You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.
There is no application deadline but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.
We hold postgraduate events in February/March and November, and open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:
- tour our campus and accommodation
- find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
- meet our students and staff
If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.
If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.
Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.