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Contemporary Art


Admission requirements


  • What is Culture?

Exchange students who have taken a comparable introductory course in the field of Cultural Studies may contact the lecturer to discuss this.


This course provides an introduction into the art of the contemporary period. We will look at and discuss a wide range of artists and artworks, ordered thematically. For those of you who would like to know more about art history (of the contemporary period), a brief introduction into its theories, methods and objects of study, this can serve as a good start.

We will start with a bird’s-eye overview of the Postmodern period, to create a basic understanding of art historical development from 1945 to now, touching upon the politics, aesthetics, theories and subjectivities of that period. After that, each session will focus on a different topic, including: art and the body, art and cultural memory, art and ecology, art and technology, problems of the art canon and the unanswerable question “what is art?”. We will read a selection of texts and will discuss these by analyzing artworks which critically question the topic. Each session will be part lecture and part discussion seminar. In this way, you will encounter a wide variety of both artworks and theoretical concepts with which to analyse the art. You will be trained in writing about art in different styles and for different audiences, through work on webposts (which together will form a portfolio), an audioguide and an academic essay.

Note that we will build on the topics discussed in the course What is culture? and will extend the theoretical framework provided there. Overlap with What is culture? will be avoided and the content of that course is therefore assumed to be prior knowledge. This means that the admission requirement is binding. If you enroll in this course without having taken What is culture? you will be removed from the course once we start.

For exchange students:If you have not taken What is culture? but have taken a comparable course about the basics of Cultural Studies (including a.o. Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Poststructuralism and Judith Butler) please contact me before the course starts to discuss whether this enables you to take the course.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of the course students will have acquired:

  • knowledge of a range of influential contemporary artists and artworks discussed in the course

  • knowledge of the cultural themes concerning diversity, as discussed in the course, and the skills to discuss these at an academic level

  • the skills to analyse a contemporary artwork (at a basic level)

  • the skills to set out an analysis of an artwork in an academic essay


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught through online lectures and seminars, alternating introductions on topics and reading material by the lecturer with group discussions and student presentations on case studies. Furthermore, we will try to schedule a museum visit.

Assessment Method

Group presentation audio guide: 15%
Individual texts in audio guide: 15%
Portfolio: 20%
Participation: 10%
Final essay (2000 words): 40%

Reading list

Assigned readings will be made available through Brightspace.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Anna Volkmar,