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Unit Overview


This unit looks at some of the central debates over contemporary art, investigating both these debates and the art that it describes. Contemporary art is a Utopian term which aims to include all kinds of art produced around the world since the 1960s, though some art from this period has been more prominent than others. The unit goes on to investigate some of the power relationships at work within the institutional structures of contemporary art production and display, looking at some of the major actors (curators, museums, patrons and others) who have enabled artists to become successful in the late-twentieth century. The unit will give students the ability to recognise and discuss contemporary art, and to address the central contentions that contemporary art presents for art history. It assesses the relativity of the value systems that produce art history, and the relationship of art history's narratives to a period of art production that is defined as post-historical, postmodern and post-gender. It gives students a crucial grounding in the thinking, actors and relationships for art produced in our own time, understandings that graduates seeking employment in the art world today require.

6 points
Not available in 2024UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 option in the Fine Arts; History of Art major sequences
  • Level 2 elective

Students are able to (1) identify historical and cultural contexts of contemporary art; (2) analyse some key theoretical and historical moments in the development of the discourses around contemporary art; (3) investigate some issues of display, dissemination and museology that relate to contemporary art; (4) synthesise works of contemporary art into broader art historical discourses; (5) make arguments relating to contemporary art; and (6) apply art historical methodologies in relation to works of contemporary art.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) short essay; (2) long essay; and (3) tutorial presentation. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Darren Jorgensen
Unit rules
HART1000 Great Moments in Art (formerly VISA1000)
or HART1003 Ways of Seeing: Themes and Theories in Art
VISA2222 Contemporary Art
Contact hours
lectures: 2 hours per week
tutorials: 1 hour per week
Enrolled students can access unit material via the LMS (Learning Management System).
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.