Art and Art History (BA)

Program Description

From pre-historic cave art to the digital media of today, human beings across the globe and through the ages have used visual forms to understand and shape their world. Painting, sculpture, and architecture as well as ornament, design, printmaking and photography have provided rich traditions of visual expression and communication, and the development of new media has greatly expanded this visual repertoire. Different cultures, in different places and at different times, have valued and conceptualized vision and made use of the visual arts in a variety of ways. The visual arts investigate and re-imagine the physical, social, cultural, and spiritual spheres of human existence and offer arguments about and interpretations of these realms. The Art & Art History major at NYU Abu Dhabi invites students to explore the objects, practices, meanings, and institutions that constitute the visual arts in diverse cultures, from comparative, historical, and cross-disciplinary perspectives.

The Art & Art History curriculum is global in its focus and pays special attention to cross-cultural encounters, to an understanding of art in comparative frameworks, and to the dialogues between Art and Art History and the humanities, sciences and other arts. The wide range of courses on offer in Abu Dhabi can be supplemented with courses on other traditions, periods and topics at New York University’s other sites.

The major in Art & Art History integrates the traditions of historical, critical, and philosophical thinking that characterize the disciplines of Art History and Aesthetics with practice-based studio art. The courses are divided into two tracks: Visual Arts and Art History. Students have the option of specializing in one track or combining the two in equal measure.

The studio art courses allow students to explore a range of different media and techniques including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, graphic design, video, and digital media, while at the same time letting them hone their skills in a chosen medium. These courses also require students to reflect critically on the nature of art practices and to understand the traditions, theories, and contexts that inform and mold these practices.

Courses in the history, theory, and criticism of the visual arts address the major issues and debates that have shaped our understanding of the visual arts. Among the questions we confront are: What is art and the nature of aesthetic experience, and why are they differently understood and valued at different times and in different cultures? What is gained or lost in studying art by focusing on a particular place, time, tradition or genre as opposed to approaching it from a comparative perspective that puts two or more cultures in dialogue? What might it mean to think of art as the product of cross-cultural exchange? How do institutions such as museums, galleries, funding bodies, and universities influence the creation, dissemination and reception of art? How do we explain the experience of the viewer psychologically, culturally, and historically? How can other disciplines help us better understand the visual arts?

The NYUAD Art & Art History program is closely related to, and crosslists, pre-professional courses in Museum and Curatorial Studies, and takes advantage of museums in the region such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the other museums currently under development on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island. Whenever possible, the major also draws upon the community of practicing artists and scholars resident in, or passing through the Gulf.

The major prepares students for careers, not only as artists or professionals in museums, the arts industries or education, but also for any career where creativity, imagination, analytical ability, conceptual clarity, cross cultural understanding and a respect for human achievement and difference are valued.

The major in Art & Art History consists of twelve courses. Students on the Visual Arts track must complete two of the four practice-based foundation courses as well as two Art History or Art Studies courses, and six Visual Arts electives. Students are encouraged to take the Foundations courses early in their program. Students following the Art History track take Foundations of Art History I and II, Thinking Art, and one of the four Visual Arts foundation courses. Students are encouraged to complete Foundations I and II as early in their degree program as possible, and must have completed them before taking Thinking Art; they are also required to take two electives focused on periods before 1800 and these should be from two different cultural traditions. All students are required to undertake a Capstone project. Students who choose to double major in Art & Art History and another discipline, and who choose to complete their Capstone project in that other discipline must still complete twelve Art & Art History courses. Instead of the two-semester Capstone Research Project in Art & Art History, these students may elect any two additional Art & Art History elective courses.

Art & Art History majors who are interested in studying abroad should plan to do so during the spring semester of their sophomore year, or the fall semester of their junior year. They should also plan to take as many of their required courses as possible before going abroad. The Art & Art History Program focuses on Berlin and New York as the primary study away sites for the program but students can also elect to take courses at other NYU study away sites.

The choice of semester, courses and site should be discussed with the student’s mentor and approved by the program. All majors should expect to be in Abu Dhabi for the spring semester of their junior year and throughout their senior year.

Please note: Art & Art History majors may not count more than two courses from other programs that are crosslisted with Art & Art History towards their major requirements.


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