Courses

  1. home
  2. courses
  3. ba curatorial studies details

BA Curatorial Studies

Why we're great

  • We are distinct - study the social and political implications of art and go beyond its historic institutions.
  • Our structured programme of study trips at home and abroad covers both the exotic and the local.
  • We house the most important collection of Latin American art in Europe, ESCALA.

Course options2017-18

UCAS code: V351
Duration: 3 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Philosophy and Art History (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: V352
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Philosophy and Art History (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666
Email admit@essex.ac.uk
Live chat

Delicious Save this on Delicious

About the course

Are you interested in becoming an exhibition curator or working in other areas of gallery management? Our BA Curatorial Studies can provide you with the intellectual and practical skills you need to realise your career ambitions, combining classroom-based learning with hands-on experience in museums and galleries.

Within the classroom, you gain an overview of major developments in art history – something essential for any budding curator. You will also learn about the history and theory of exhibition design, with a particular emphasis on how curatorial choices shape our experiences while viewing artworks and the other objects on display in museums and galleries.

The Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA), Europe’s largest collection of Latin American art, will offer you a place to experiment with installing artworks. Besides getting your feet wet with the more tactical aspects of installing art, these experiences will open your eyes to how curatorial decisions transform the kinds of stories that artworks tell when displayed alongside others.

Frequent, staff-led visits to London museums and galleries will also expose you to the latest developments in curating, and you will be strongly encouraged to conduct a placement in order to gain exposure to the inner workings of a museum, auction house or gallery.

To ensure you are prepared to meet the challenges facing curators in the 21st century, opportunities to cultivate digital skills will be available throughout the course. For example, for your final project, you will curate an online exhibition, for which you will produce a virtual walk-through of the exhibition space and develop digitally-accessible interpretative material for all objects on display.

Essex is the ideal choice for a BA in curatorial studies. We are ranked top 10 in the UK for History of Art (CUG 2018) and ranked 6th among Art History departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014). We are one of the few leading art history programmes that offers an undergraduate course specialising in curating and you will be taught by our expert staff in your very first year—another rarity in UK art history courses.

Study abroad

Our BA in curatorial studies offers you the chance to choose from a variety of study abroad options. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year studying abroad without paying a fee (2017 entry), while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable and organised. We have established partnerships across Europe, the United States, Latin America and Asia, including with world-renowned institutions such as:

  • École du Louvre in France
  • University of Freiburg in Germany
  • University of Bologna in Italy

Many of our partnerships are subject to language requirements and are recommended for students on joint degrees with languages. Even if you don’t have (or don't want to study) another language though, there are plenty of Anglophone destinations.

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.

Specialist facilities

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 and talks 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

Your future

The visual arts and culture industries have become an increasingly significant part of the national and international economy, and our graduates can leave Essex with the skills to take advantage of this growing opportunity.

The sectors with jobs best suited for students with a BA in curatorial studies include museums, galleries and auction houses. Within these sectors, you can pursue a career in curation, museum education, programming, or sales and marketing. Our degree also equips you with foundational skills to run your own gallery, to work as a PR agent, or to work in the fields of fashion, publishing or events management.

To help our students acquire the particular skills they need to gain employment in the museum and gallery sector – the single-most important area in which our students will seek jobs – we offer numerous modules dedicated to the histories, theories and practices of museums, exhibitions and galleries. Additionally, we give you the chance to think creatively and proactively about life after university through our curatorial employability module.

We also work with our Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

Previous Next

Example structure

We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of compulsory modules and options chosen from lists. Below is just one example of a combination of modules you could take. For a full list of optional modules you can look at the course’s Programme Specification.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore all modules listed are subject to change.

Year 1

Gain first-hand professional experience in the cultural and creative sector with this practical skills-based module. You will work with the Arts Education team on an arts projects with a local school, discovering how to plan and deliver effective and engaging sessions, whilst learning about the career opportunities in this sector. By helping children develop, you’ll reflect upon your own strengths and capabilities, building on vital transferrable employability skills such as teamwork, resilience, leadership, and experience of working with outside organisations. You will have the opportunity to achieve Arts Award Gold accreditation, and the chance to put yourself forward for extra Arts Award training, helping you to stand out from the crowd. Complementing other modules on the course, this module will also prepare you for a placement or year abroad.

Explore the varied ways in which art historians, philosophers and artists have thought and written about art, from the Antiquity to the 21th century. This module examines the role of emotions in experiencing art, social and feminist art histories, the changing conceptions of what defines ‘art’, and the impact that ideas have on artistic creation itself. It will provide you with a sound foundation in the fundamental theoretical issues relating to the history of art and artistic practices.

Slander. Vendetta. Madness. Infanticide. These and other social problems threatened the integrity of daily life in late medieval and early modern (ca. 1300-1600) Italy--pitting husband against wife, brother against brother, friend against friend. This interdisciplinary module examines a wide range of visual culture (everything from altarpieces to prints, fresco cycles to manuscripts) to discover how images shaped public perceptions of social problems (and how similar processes occur today).

Build on your knowledge gained from AR113, and tackle some of the biggest questions surrounding the history of art. Explore the key issues of storytelling and style, and the complex notion of “looking”, by engaging critically with seminal texts, original works of art, and architecture. Through debates and essays, you will develop your analytical and interpretive skills, and leave with a solid foundation for the study of the history of art.

Meet the rule-breakers. What is it that motivates an artist to break the mould? Focussing on French Impressionism, this module identifies not only how the political, social and economic changes during the nineteenth century affected art and creative thinking, but how this vibrant and multi-faceted group of artists, who refused to follow the crowd, influenced their world. Through analysis of primary and secondary sources, you’ll explore their historical reputation, as well as their relevance today.

Certain ideas shape the way we see ourselves and the world around us—ideas like democracy, free speech, individualism, free markets, and humans rights. These ideas took their definitive modern form during a politically and intellectually revolutionary stretch of history known as the Enlightenment (1650-1800). This interdisciplinary module examines this period and thus serves as an essential prerequisite for students who want to understand the intellectual currents that run through the world they live in. Graduating students often rank it among the most useful modules they’ve taken.

In a mixture of lectures and site visits around Essex and the wider region, learn about the relationship between spaces and those who inhabit them, and how space produces and shapes culture in various ways. From prisons to power-stations, from cathedrals to piers, discover how and why the visual works, how it is affected by, and affects the context in which it sits, and the impact it has on our lives, whilst picking up some vital transferrable skills. This module is intended to serve as an introduction to concepts of visual culture, urbanism, and the critical theories of space.

Year 2

Come face-to-face with over 750 original artworks from 19 countries in the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America. This major, unique, and internationally recognised collection, with works dating from the 1960s to today, is yours to make the most of. Investigate the themes of religion, identity, human rights, and money, which permeate many of the works and reflect the historical and contemporary challenges faced by the region, and debate the role Latin American art has in the wider art world.

Some of the most captivating artworks in European art history have come to be known as ‘Baroque’, but what does this term mean? When did it emerge and what is at stake in calling an artwork Baroque? Originally introduced as a derogatory term, recently the stylistic and theoretical notion of the Baroque has been of much interest in art history. This course introduces these debates to students through writings that discuss key seventeenth-century artworks such as the dramatic paintings of Caravaggio, the voluptuous sculptures of Bernini, and the dynamic architecture of Borromini. 'More Art, More Ideas: Baroque and Neo-Baroque' solidifies and deepens students' understanding of the reception, theorisation and critique of art, as well as the developments and shifts of art history as a discipline over time.

In this module, we will explore the diverse responses by individual artists working at the end of the nineteenth century to the legacy of Impressionism as the quintessential art of modern life. We will attempt to discover what it really meant to be 'modern' in turn-of-the century Europe and how artists responded to the dramatic political, social and technological changes that we call modernisation.

Beginning with the cabinets of curiosities and ending with the challenges of collecting and curating new media art, you’ll take a journey through the history of display. You’ll identify paradigm shifts in the history of collecting and curating, and gain a clear understanding of the interconnectedness of these practices. You’ll discuss the socio-economic conditions in which different methods of collecting and displaying emerged, developed, and in some cases, came to be seen as obsolete. You’ll analyse the emergence of the so-called contemporary curator, gain a firm grasp of current debates in the curatorial discipline, and will look at contemporary practices that allow us to analyse collecting and curating under a new light.

This module seeks to answer the thorny question ‘What makes art modern?’ by considering different strands of European modern art from the 1900s through 1945, including Futurism, Constructivism, and Surrealism. Some key issues addressed include the birth of abstraction; the relationship between art and politics; and intersections between art, mass media, and consumer culture.

Explore the vibrant artistic culture of the Renaissance court, an environment where magnificence and splendor served to justify rule, neutralize dissent, and enforce hierarchies of power. In the courts of Milan, Ferrara, and Florence, among others, we will encounter famed artists like Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Titian. Paying particular attention to gender, this module examines the role of visual culture in shaping conceptions of ruling authority, chivalry, courtly love, virility, fecundity, and beauty.

Rome is a multi-layered, palimpsestical city with an extraordinarily rich artistic, architectural, and archaeological heritage. The trip will explore the varied life and afterlife of classical Antiquity in Rome from the time of the city’s foundation to the twentieth century. Taking in sites within the city, it will also include trips to places that are further afield.

Discover the relations between philosophy and literature. You study Iris Murdoch’s account of life as a ‘pilgrimage’ from appearance to reality, which she claims is the concern of great art, and Martha Nussbaum’s rejection of this in her discussion of Greek tragedy. You then explore Richard Rorty’s account of Nineteen Eighty Four as demonstrating that no ‘truth’ is written into the human condition, before finally looking at Stanley Cavell’s comparison of philosophical scepticism and Shakespearean tragedy.

This module will prepare you for your final-year capstone project in Art History, whether it be a dissertation or a curatorial project. All second-year students following BA schemes in Art History, including those on Study Abroad variants, are required to complete the Capstone Preparation Module. This module will support you in developing a clearly defined topic, a research plan, and a bibliography of key texts. It will prepare you for the required Art History capstone by guiding you through the process of conceiving, developing and proposing an extended piece of research (either a dissertation or curatorial project) based on a topic which you have chosen yourself.

Final year

The period from 1945 to 1980 marked one of the most explosive and dynamic moments in the history of art. Discover how the specter of the Holocaust and the ideological divisions of the Cold War shaped the production and reception of art in the two decades following World War II. Also learn how major political developments of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Stonewall, student protests and the feminist movement, transformed the practice, theory and history of art, ultimately providing a hyper-politicised foundation for the emergence of postmodernism.

This module follows on from AR321, and presents the artwork of the post-mechanical age. Uncover how new media, such as film and video, cybernetics, robotics, video games and the internet have been used to create art from the 1960s to the present day. Investigate the issues of production, reception, display, the acceptance of new media into the art world, whilst attempting to link the issues raised by new media artists to your own experiences of life in an increasingly digital world.

Thai curry for gallery-goers, and the aftermath of a monster attack – just two examples of how contemporary artists are pushing techniques, processes and media to the limit. Explore how the attitudes and approaches to art have evolved over the last 30 years, and the crucial precursors who influenced them, whilst always considering how the context in which art is made and received – be it geographical, sociological, political, or philosophical – affects its production, reception, and interpretation.

When artworks or artefacts have been looted, should finders really be keepers? What causes an artwork to fetch £100 million at auction? And when is it (il)legal to reproduce another artist’s work and claim it as one’s own? Study how issues of property rights, valuation, market transparency and digitisation have shaped -- and continue to reshape -- the field of art across different media.

Rome is a multi-layered, palimpsestical city with an extraordinarily rich artistic, architectural, and archaeological heritage. The trip will explore the varied life and afterlife of classical Antiquity in Rome from the time of the city’s foundation to the twentieth century. Taking in sites within the city, it will also include tips to places that are further afield.

This is an optional module available to final-year art history students. The dissertation project will be designed by you, and will be 5,000 words in length. You'll be supervised by a member of our teaching staff.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Teaching

  • Close examination of texts written by artists, critics, art historians and philosophers
  • Subsidised gallery visits to work ‘in situ’ for each course
  • Gain practical experience in curating, such as handling and installing artworks
  • Teaching takes the form of lectures and seminar sessions or discussion classes

Assessment

  • Assessment methods include coursework, for example essays, analysis of source material, exhibition reviews and virtual portfolios, coursework reports, oral presentations
  • Written examinations are also taken for the majority of modules at the end of each academic year

Previous Next

Qualifications

UK entry requirements

A-levels: BBB

IB: 30 points. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

BTEC Extended Diploma: DDM (in relevant subject)

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email admit@essex.ac.uk for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

English language requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. Different requirements apply for second year entry, and specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels listed above. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

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.

Previous Next

Applying

Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.

Applicant Days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our applicant days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.

Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your applicant day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.

If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email visit@essex.ac.uk so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

Visit us

Open days

Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have 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

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing tours@essex.ac.uk and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

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.

Exhibitions

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.

Previous Next


The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its course finder is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep prospective students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.