Ways of Seeing Contemporary Art

Please note: this is archived course information from 2021 for ARTHIST 204.


This is a newly designed course that aims to be provocative, sometimes controversial and at all times exploratory and transformative. It is a single semester course and a direct and methodical way to acquire knowledge about contemporary art’s current themes, concepts, critical theories, buzzwords, techniques and processes that engage the imagination of artists, curators, writers and cultural theorists worldwide.

The course asks us how we can create new ways of thinking by engaging with contemporary artworks that spark unexpected ideas and encounters. From this broad knowledge, students are encouraged to dig deeper into particular aspects and themes. Some of the most important themes in contemporary art are: new materialism, time, subjectivity, death, the mind and body, eco-politics, posthumanism, postcolonialism and cultural diversity, sexuality and gender, conceptualism and cultural memory, participation and activism.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course students will have acquired an in-depth knowledge of contemporary art’s most important themes and concepts. They will learn the skills to discuss contemporary art meaningfully and to personalise encounters with works of art, channelling these experiences into new and creative ways of thinking.

As part of the course, we visit the Auckland Art Gallery in order to test ways of seeing and interpreting art—once learned these skills become important tools for life. This is a high-level course that provides individuals with visual intelligence and critical concepts that they can apply to all aspects of visual culture in any period or culture.

Students will also gain skills valued by employers, academics, designers, artists, psychologists and theorists: how to combine concepts, how to communicate them effectively, how to conduct high-level research for any project, how to collaborate in project teams.


Coursework + exam

Availability 2021

Not offered in 2021; planned for 2022


Coordinator(s) Professor Gregory Minissale

Recommended Reading

Claire Bishop, Participation. London : Whitechapel ; Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 2006.

Amelia Groom, Time. London : Whitechapel Gallery ; Cambridge, MA : The MIT Press, 2013.

Antony Hudek, The Object. London : Whitechapel Gallery ; Cambridge, Massachusetts : The MIT Press, 2014.

Stephen Johnson, The Everyday. London : Whitechapel Gallery ; Cambridge, Massachusetts : The MIT Press, 2008.

Clare Doherty, Situation. London : Whitechapel Gallery ; Cambridge, Massachusetts : The MIT Press, 2009.

Petra Lange-Berndt, Materiality. London : Whitechapel Gallery ; Cambridge, Massachusetts : The MIT Press, 2016.

Charles Merewether, The Archive. London : Whitechapel Gallery ; Cambridge, Massachusetts : The MIT Press, 2007.

Gregory Minissale, The Psychology of Contemporary Art. Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Robertson and McDaniel, Themes of Contemporary Art. Oxford University Press, 2010.


Coursework + exam


ARTHIST 204: 15 points


15 points at Stage I in Art History and 30 points passed