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Understanding Contemporary Art (Online Short Course)

Understanding Contemporary Art (Online Short Course)

Central Saint Martins
Taught by
Theo Carnegy Tan


Our current art era is dynamic and eclectic. It can be hard to place within a conceptual framework, but developing knowledge and appreciation of contemporary art can be very rewarding for artists, art lovers, collectors, or curators seeking inspiration.

This short and focused course will survey the contemporary art world, and trace a history of contemporary art which will help you make sense of its increasingly challenging and innovative works.

We will study works from seminal figures such as Allan Kaprow, Joseph Beuys, the E.A.T Group, the Guerilla Girls, Mierle Ukeles, the YBAs, Olia Lialina and more, and through their work we will examine the themes that run through contemporary art. By the end of the course you will have a firm foundation from which to navigate the art world of today.


  • What is contemporary art?
  • What reference does contemporary art make to the past?
  • Art history and historical analysis
  • Artwork analysis
  • Contextual research
  • Explanation and interpretation
  • Performance art
  • Conceptual art
  • Consumer culture and art
  • Abstract expressionism
  • Pop art
  • Art and the dawn of the internet
  • Global contemporary art
  • Rise of the art market

Course Outcomes:
By the end of the course you will be able to;

  • Trace a basic map of the contemporary art world, from c. 1945 to 2000
  • Link later 20th century movements such as performance art, internet art, pop art and more
  • Analyse artwork through the use of art historical frameworks
  • Understand the fundamental differences between modern and contemporary art
  • Connect artworks to multiple influences and ideas from recent history
  • Have a basic knowledge of some of the most influential living artists

Who is Understanding Contemporary Art (Online Short Course) for?
This course is ideal for aspiring curators or collectors of contemporary art, people with a passion for art, arts industry professionals looking to focus on contemporary art, and journalists or writers new to contemporary works.

Level: Intermediate.
Students will benefit from some prior knowledge but no academic background is necessary.

Why choose a CSM Online Short Course
Our online learning short courses allow you to experience Central Saint Martins wherever you are in the world. Additionally all CSM Online Short Courses include;

  • Live sessions with expert
  • Lesson recordings
  • Practical assignments
  • Personal feedback
  • VLE with course content
  • Forums for support
  • 3 months online access
  • CSM Certificate upon completion

Visit Frequently Asked Questions for further details about preparing for your online course, including any equipment you need.

Please note that all courses are taught in UK time. To compare times, please check World Time Buddy.

Please note: This course is for students aged 18 and older
Please note that Online courses are closed to all new bookings 48 hours prior to the course starting.

Tutor Description

Theo Carnegy-Tan is an arts academic from London, and he has taught Short Courses with Central Saint Martins since 2014. Previously has given a number of talks at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, and has worked in the archives of Zaha Hadid Architects and the Mucha Foundation. His writing has been featured in Another Gaze, MAP, and The Quietus among others


Online Short Course Materials

To take part in the Online sessions you will need:

  • An up-to-date version of the Google Chrome web browser
  • Microphone and headphones (a headset with a microphone function is recommended)
  • Webcam
  • Strong Internet connection via WiFi or ethernet; 2G, 3G or 4G will not be sufficient

Course Specific Materials

  • Paper and pen to take notes during live sessions

Available dates