• Offered by School of Art and Design
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Art History
  • Areas of interest Art History, Visual Arts, Digital Humanities, Creative Arts, Design
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Chris McAuliffe
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2021
    See Future Offerings

This course will survey significant historical, theoretical and structural changes in contemporary art, from the critique of Euro-American modernism established in postmodernism (1970-1990) to the globalised field of culture, capital and spectacle dubbed ‘the contemporary’ (1990-2020). You will study the challenges posed by postmodern theory and art to modernism’s principles of autonomy, authorship, originality, historical evolution, style and spectatorship. Postmodern agendas - identity politics, post-authorial practices, institution critique, appropriation and hybridity - will be surveyed. The emergence of ‘the contemporary’ will be explored in the proliferation of global art events and markets, affiliations of capital with contemporary art, the advent of the ‘experience economy’ as a cultural driver, and the disintegration of geo-political centres of art. The course will consider the complex challenge of making, interpreting and displaying art in the 21st century, an era of fractured temporality, volatile social experience, deterritorialized identity and corporatized culture.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of the principal elements of postmodern theory and its critique of modernism in art;
  2. recognise, critically evaluate and articulate postmodern strategies developed by artists, critics and curators;
  3. demonstrate a critical engagement with the principal elements of models of contemporary art (1990-2020) and the changes to making, interpreting and displaying art that they propose; and
  4. recognise and critically evaluate the ways in which contemporary artists, critics and curators respond to current social and historical circumstances (such as globalism, spectacle, deterritorialization).

Indicative Assessment

  1. Tutorial participation (15) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  2. Object analysis, 1000 words (20) [LO 1,2]
  3. Essay, 3500 words (50) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  4. Take home examination, 1000 words (15) [LO 1,2,3,4]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from:

a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks comprising lectures, tutorials, workshops and seminars; and

b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing. Contact hours may include visits to major art institutions in Canberra.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed ARTH2061.

Prescribed Texts


Preliminary Reading

James Elkins, Master Narratives and their Discontents, London: Routledge, 2005.

Boris Groys, On the New, London: Verso: 2014.

Terry Smith, What is Contemporary Art? Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4043 22 Feb 2021 01 Mar 2021 31 Mar 2021 28 May 2021 In Person N/A

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions