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Curating the Contemporary - MA

Why study this course?

A practice-into-theory MA that will launch your career in contemporary art taught jointly with Whitechapel Gallery; it will give you the chance to do a placement at a world-renowned gallery and Whitechapel Gallery.

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This is a professional course, devised and taught with our partner, the internationally renowned Whitechapel Gallery. Through direct involvement in the life cycle of the gallery, you will will acquire the key skills and knowledge of curatorial practice as well as an informed understanding of the contemporary visual arts. You will also gain a broad range of transferable skills in communication, management, research and analysis.

The MA Curating the Contemporary partnership and programme is unique among courses of its type. It provides theory into practice experiential learning of a kind and quality that will be invaluable to you when seeking future employment in the industry. 

Moreover, our students work with our exhibition partners in London and abroad to curate major shows. These have included: Me-Collection/Olbricht Foundation, Berlin, Government Art Collection, London, Zabludowicz Collection, London, Royal College of Psychiatrists, and many others.

Other students have gone on to have successful careers as curators, painters, art writers and publicists. Take a look at their blog Curating the Contemporary to discover more.


You will be assessed via a variety of methods, including project work (exhibitions), essays, archival investigation and a major research project. Assessment will also be based on evaluation of your individual contributions in the live curatorial environment through placements and exhibitions of professional artists curated by students.

You will be required to have:

  • a relevant upper second class honours degree in a related discipline (professional qualifications from accredited museums and public galleries may also be considered)

We interview all prospective applicants in person.

All applicants must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. Applicants who require a Tier 4 student visa may need to provide a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as Academic IELTS. For more information about English qualifications please see our English language requirements.

The modules listed below are for the academic year 2016/17 and represent the course modules at this time. Modules and module details (including, but not limited to, location and time) are subject to change over time.

Year 1 modules include:

  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Thursday afternoon

    This Critical and Contextual Studies module is shared across MA Curating the Contemporary, MA Fine Art and MA Photography. Students will be introduced to key theoretical frameworks that influence and respond to practices and contexts in contemporary art and culture.

    Students will develop the skills necessary to complete their own research and will also learn to evaluate critical thinking relevant to their practice. The module is delivered through a series of lectures, seminars and off site visits and involves students in productive cross course discussion and debate. Relationships between theory and practice will be explored within an overarching historical narrative.

    Read full details.
  • This module currently runs:
    • all year (September start) - Monday morning

    The module outlines the specific institutional and non-institutional context, and the historical, geo-political and social concerns, surrounding art practice and its display. The module introduces students to a range of contrasting strategies of display through lectures, seminars and workshops.

    These examine, among other topics, specific aspects of arts funding and its impact upon curatorial practice and artists; it investigates the implications of the market on exhibition making and the management and display of collections. The module aims to introduce particular examples of display, throughout the 20th Century, in particular that shed light upon exhibition culture.

    In the second part of the module, the focus will move to contemporary curating as a plurality of different approaches and as a distinct practice. Lectures and seminars will take place with, for example, leading curators, theoreticians, artists and critics. Additionally, with the support of teaching staff, students will devise and plan an indicative curatorial project.

    Read full details.
  • This module currently runs:
    • all year (September start) - Monday afternoon


    This 30-week module introduces the Whitechapel Gallery as a model of a European 'Kunsthalle'. The gallery's aims, policies and activities, and the logistical and funding constraints that frame its operations, are contextualized and explained, through a series of lectures given by Gallery Department Heads and Programme Curators.

    Lectures are supported by tutorials, seminars and plenary discussions towards completion of indicative practical tasks and coursework. Students are expected to work independently and cumulatively, undertaking appropriate research & development between sessions, and as the year goes along in response to tutorial guidance. In the latter half of the module, students shall commence planning for the curatorial project.

    Read full details.
  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Thursday afternoon

    Students will engage critically and creatively, with a range of approaches to writing about art, for different audiences and contexts, for example: artists’ writings; art criticism; curatorial and educational texts (such as catalogue essays and gallery interpretation), and press and publicity materials. The module will take the form of a writing workshop that encourages students to write reflectively about artworks.

    Read full details.

Year 2 modules include:

  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Monday afternoon

    This module provides students with the opportunity to complete and exhibit a ‘live’ curatorial project. In addition, they will complete an exhibition report.

    In consultation with tutors, the group will plan and produce an exhibition to be mounted in one of the CASS’ Gallery spaces at the end of the module. The cohort shall be assigned duties and responsibilities, including fundraising, press and publicity, catalogue, interpretation, education and curation.

    Students will be supported in the completion of their group exhibition projects by a series of seminars, group- and individual tutorials.

    Read full details.
  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester

    This module runs at Whitechapel Gallery

    The purpose of this immersive placement (18 week, 25 hours per week) module is to equip students with first-hand experience of the preparation and delivery of the gallery's annual programming, with particular reference to Commissions and Collection displays.

    Working under the guidance and management of an appointed workplace supervisor, students will contribute to the overall process of planning and development whilst taking individual responsibility for a specific area of activity, ranging from display to publishing, fundraising, marketing and interpretation. Students will be expected to work independently, under structured supervision, and in team-settings, as appropriate, towards defined goals.

    Read full details.
  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Monday afternoon

    This module provides students with the opportunity to devise and develop a proposal towards a curatorial project. In addition, they will complete an academic paper in the form of an individual catalogue essay, utilising appropriate research methodologies.

    Through a series of Research Methods lecture/workshops, immersive critical exercises and tutorials, students will be equipped with an appropriate theory & methods tool-kit for undertaking sustained exploration and study of their chosen research topic.

    In parallel and in consultation with tutors, the group will plan an exhibition to be mounted in one of the CASS’ Gallery spaces or an external venue in the Module ‘Curatorial Practice’ in the Spring Semester.

    Read full details.
  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester

    This module operates as preparation for JC72W2 Professional Practice module. The module is comprised of a series of tutorials with a designated workplace mentor; the purpose of which is to consolidate knowledge and develop professional insight and identify through dialogue, appropriate tasks, roles and objectives within the context of the subsequent module.

    Students will also be expected to work with peers, in setting and achieving shared objectives. This module forms the basis of engagement, progress and potential for the workplace mentor to make a pass or fail evaluation of student performance.

    Read full details.

The course is designed to facilitate an integration of academic elements and work done through on-site curatorial practice. The course comprises lectures, seminars and tutorials at the University with appropriate training, mentoring and professional development at Whitechapel Gallery.

Curating students also undertake two major exhibition projects featuring national and international artists. These are developed with our external exhibition partners and supervised by teaching staff. Partners past and present include: ME-Collector’s Room in Berlin, Government Art Collection (GAC) London, David Roberts Foundation in London, Nomas Foundation in Rome, Kadist Foundation in Paris, among others. Students also have access to The Cass Gallery at the University.

Core modules include:

Year one:

  • History of Curating: Practices and Theories of Display
  • Workplace Observation Module: Whitechapel Gallery
  • Writing About Art: Curatorial Workshops

Year two:

  • Research Methods and Project
  • Major Curatorial Project
  • Curatorial Practice and Mentoring
  • Professional Practice: Whitechapel Gallery

Successful completion of this course offers significantly improved career opportunities in the arts sector including roles in exhibition curating, collections management, gallery education, fundraising, gallery management and administration, press and publicity, publishing, journalism, art criticism and as arts entrepreneurs in the creative economy.

Our graduates have found employment with major public spaces and commercial galleries in the UK and abroad including GoMA-Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, the Whitechapel Gallery, and the Foundling Museum, London, among others .

Between 2016 and 2020 we're investing £125 million in the London Metropolitan University campus, moving all of our activity to our current Holloway campus in Islington, north London. This will mean the teaching location of some courses will change over time.

Whether you will be affected will depend on the duration of your course, when you start and your mode of study. The earliest moves affecting new students will be in September 2017. This may mean you begin your course at one location, but over the duration of the course you are relocated to one of our other campuses. Our intention is that no full-time student will change campus more than once during a course of typical duration.

All students will benefit from our move to one campus, which will allow us to develop state-of-the-art facilities, flexible teaching areas and stunning social spaces.

Please note, in addition to the tuition fee there may be additional costs for things like equipment, materials, printing, textbooks, trips or professional body fees.

Additionally, there may be other activities that are not formally part of your course and not required to complete your course, but which you may find helpful (for example, optional field trips). The costs of these are additional to your tuition fee and the fees set out above and will be notified when the activity is being arranged.

How to apply

Use the apply button to begin your application.

When to apply

You are advised to apply as early as possible as applications will only be considered if there are places available on the course.

Our places are limited as we work with a number of external partners to ensure the best student learning experience regarding professional internships and curatorial projects.


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