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Masters in Arts and Culture: Contemporary Art history

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
1 year
Full time
Master's degree
On campus
September 2021
Virtual open day

Program description

Masters in Arts and Culture: Contemporary Art history

The Master's programme Contemporary Art History focuses on the visual, process-based, and digital art since the 1960s. This specialization trains you as an art historian who is equipped to tackle this complex but fascinating field. After completing this programme, you will have a solid knowledge of today’s visual, process-based, and digital art. You will also be equipped with skills to do research, present, and write about today's art, enabling you to pursue a career in the cultural sector (museums, festivals, art galleries, archives), as art critic, or freelance cultural entrepreneur.

Today’s art includes installation art and site-specific projects, digital or new media art (interactive installations, locative media works, software art, networked art, electronic art and video art), performative and activist projects and artistic research.

What unites these art forms is that they directly address the complexity of today’s society, within which information technologies and globalization play an ever-increasing role, leading to networked forms of artistic practice that transgress national and cultural borders. At the same time, artists are very aware of the heritage they build upon, deconstruct, commenting on, or appropriating art history, leading to various attempts to describe contemporary art with terms such as post-modern, post-conceptual, post-medium, and more recently even post-internet and post-digital – and post-contemporary.

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Admission requirements

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admissions Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application.

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent.

Specific admission requirements for the Master’s programme Contemporary Art History: Admission to the Master's programme Contemporary Art History, specialization of Arts &Culture, is possible with a Bachelor's degree in art history or something equivalent.

If you have a Bachelor's degree in Humanities (history, media studies, philosophy, cultural studies), a solid background with a minimum of 60 credits is required in art history/theory to be admitted to the programme. In that case, the Faculty's Admissions Board will review whether you meet the admissions requirements.

The level of studied academic theory needs to be based on the course description, literature list and sample of academic writing, due to a lack of distinction between applied and academic universities abroad.


Students applying for a Master’s degree programme should be able to speak, read, write and understand English at an advanced academic level. Only students who have completed a full high school/International Baccalaureate in English or Bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. You can already apply online without having the test results.

The proficiency requirement in English can be met by the successful completion of one of the following examinations, with the scores indicated:

  • TOEFL score(score 600 paper based with a minimum of 55 in each of the subtests plus 4.0 in TWE, score 250 computer based or score 100 internet based with a minimum of 20-23 in each of the subtests).
  • IELTSscore of 7.0 overall band score (with none of the separate section scores dropping below a minimum score of 6.5).
  • Cambridge English: Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C, or Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C.

Please note: tests must have been completed no more than two years before the start of the programme.

See the Admission and language requirements page for further information on the general requirements.

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Program content

Mandatory classes
You will kick off your first semester by self-critically questioning your role as an art historian with a specific interest in contemporary art by following a class on ‘Methods and Theories of Art History’ in the first period. Parallel to this, you will follow a research seminar dedicated to a specific topic within contemporary art, in order to immediately get started in developing your knowledge of the field and to improve your research and writing skills. While this class continues in the second period, the second period will also allow you to delve into the depth of digital and process-based art while following a class specifically dedicated to new media art.

While the major part of the second semester will be dedicated to supporting you in writing your MA thesis, in period four you will follow a class on art criticism to further develop your skills in writing and in critically assessing contemporary art. You’ll also follow our Arts & Culture Lecture Series class (Trending Topics), inviting you to reflect on recent issues in our field by listening to renowned international guest speakers and discussing their writing with fellow students from different specializations. Last but not least, you’ll go on a field trip to a foreign country, to prove and further develop your analytical skills onsite.

Furthermore, you can select a class from a range of electives, such as the classes ‘Reading Concepts of Intermediality’, ‘Crossmedial Exhibitions’, or ‘Media Aesthetics’ offered in the framework of the CAMS programme. You can also choose from the specializations ‘Kunst, Markt, en Connaisseurschap’ (in Dutch) or ‘Design Cultures’ or a class on ‘Collecting and Display, as well as further electives from Philosophy or Literary Studies.

Tuition fees

  • EU-EER students fee: € 2,168
  • NON-EU students fee: € 16,630

Scholarships & funding

With our own scholarship, the VU Fellowship Programme (VUFP), we offer highly motivated students with excellent study results the unique opportunity to pursue a Master’s degree with financial support provided by the university.

The VUFP scholarship is a tuition fee waiver. The Holland Scholarship Programme (HSP) is meant for students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who want to follow a Master’s programme in the Netherlands. VU Amsterdam embraces diversity as an enrichment to our teaching, research and our contribution to society. This scholarship is specifically intended for excellent students who contribute to the diversity at our campus. As an international student planning to study at VU Amsterdam, you can apply for a variety of grants and bursaries.


On completion of this program, students will receive a Masters in Arts and Culture: Contemporary Art history

Continuing studies

Prepare for a career in the cultural sector, art festivals, exhibitions and galleries, art journalism, or the creative industries. Contemporary Art History equips you with skills and critical insight to be able to comment on, judge, present, and write about art in the information age in an independent and critical manner. The program thereby prepares you for a position in which substantial knowledge and research skills in the field of contemporary and digital art are required, such as organizing exhibitions, events, or festivals, writing about art for newspapers, magazines or online-media, working in public programming or educational departments of museums, the city council, festival organizations, in public or private archives, or pursue research on a freelance basis or within academia.

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About this institute

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Welcome to Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (‘VU Amsterdam’) is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 175 English-taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to more than 26,000 students from all over the world. Students and staff...

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Why study at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

With more than 24,000 students, of which 4,088 are international, VU Amsterdam conducts cutting-edge research into problems of societal and scientific importance.

They distinguish themselves in research and education through four interdisciplinary themes:

  • Human Health and Life Sciences
  • Science for Sustainability
  • Connected World
  • Governance for Society

As a student this will help you to look beyond the boundaries of scientific disciplines, and to seek for tangible solutions for a better world.

In addition, VU Amsterdam regards diversity, whether in culture, conviction, nationality or prior education, as source of innovation and progress, and hence as special strength.

The Dutch higher education system has been ranked in the top 10 by Universitas 21. In the first Times Higher Education University Impact Ranking, VU Amsterdam is ranked 16th worldwide. In this ranking, universities are assessed based on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to measure the impact of the universities on society. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2018 (Shanghai Ranking) VU Amsterdam holds the 104th position. The international QS World University ranking 2021 places the Vrije Universiteit at number 236 in the world, which means the Vrije Universiteit belongs to the top 20% of the world.

At VU Amsterdam, the teaching style can be described as student-centred: they encourage students to develop their own opinions through independent and creative thinking. This means that teaching is mainly conducted in small tutorials, where interactivity is the norm rather than the exception. At every opportunity, students are encouraged to engage in constructive dialogue with their professors.

Contact info

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
Netherlands, the

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