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Course Description
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Contemporary British Art 1LIB415
University of Westminster
London, England

Subject Area(s) Level(s) Instruction in Credits Contact Hours Prerequisites
Art 200 English 4 50 N/A


London as a centre of the Arts; London Art Galleries and Museums; Artist as celebrity; The phenomena of Brit Art; London and its Artists; Modern collections and collectors.


This class is a vibrant introduction to contemporary art on show in London, examining the
impact of Brit Art, the YBAs (Young British Artists), the influence of key collectors and the
cult of the celebrity artist. Visits to public contemporary art collections in Tate Britain and
Tate Modern will give students the opportunity to consider the work of contemporary
celebrity artists such as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, the Chapman Brothers and winner of the 2003 Turner Prize, Grayson Perry. The class will analyse the phenomena of Brit Art and the YBAs, and seek to explain these artists’ dominance of the contemporary art scene. The class will demonstrate the importance of contemporary galleries such as White Cube and assess the contribution made by private collectors such as Charles Saatchi. This class will incorporate a number of visits to relevant sites, including the Saatchi collection, and includes field-walks to London’s latest ‘art-regenerated’ areas such as Hoxton and the East End.


By the end of the class students are expected to be able to:
 demonstrate critical awareness of contemporary art in London and the major London
permanent collections;
 demonstrate a familiarity with key contemporary visual artists and their work;
 appreciate the importance to art of the cultural and social environment in London;
 show understanding of the importance of modern collecting and collectors;
 analyse and explain key works in terms of their meaning and context.
 London’s permanent art collections;
 Britart and the YBA’s;
 The influence of key collectors and the cult of the celebrity artist;
 The role of of contemporary art competitions such as the Turner Prize;
 The importance of contemporary galleries such as White Cube and the effect of
private collectors such as Charles Saatchi.
 London’s ‘arts’ geography.


The class is delivered via lectures, seminars and visits to the major permanent collections.
The visits will include the National Gallery, Courtauld Institute, Wallace Collection, Tate
Britain, Tate Modern, Saatchi Gallery and various contemporary galleries including the
Whitechapel Art Gallery, Camden Arts Centre. Seminars allow informal student-led
discussion of the issues raised in the lectures and the site visits. Students are encouraged to read contemporary art texts and magazines and visit galleries in their own time.


The class is assessed via coursework and a presentation. Coursework consists of an essay (2,000 words) from an approved list of titles. The students will make a 10 minute
presentation on a contemporary British artist using power-point.
Assessment is designed to allow students to demonstrate their acquired knowledge and
developed understanding of modern art in contemporary London and contemporary visual practice. In addition, it is intended to allow students to demonstrate the key skills of literacy and ability to argue a case. Students will also demonstrate their ability to communicate knowledge and understanding through a presentation on a chosen artist.


The assessment scheme consists of coursework and a presentation as follows:
· essay (2,000 words) 70%
· presentation (10 minutes) 30%


In essays, students are expected to demonstrate that they can:
· understand the question set;
· select, utilise and synthesise appropriate secondary sources;
· formulate and structure an essay which directly addresses and answers the question set
and which is based upon accumulated knowledge and developed understanding;
· use appropriate academic conventions and apparatus, including a notation system and
bibliography (not applicable in the examination);
· communicate effectively in good written English using appropriate information and
computing technology (the latter not applicable in the examination).
In the presentation, students are expected to demonstrate:
· broadly-based knowledge and a critical understanding of contemporary art in modern
London, the artists, their work and context;
· knowledge and understanding of the historical context of contemporary art practice;
· a focused knowledge of the chosen artists work and practice;
· the ability to use presentation tools such as powerpoint;
· the ability to demonstrate good presentation skills and communication skills.

Essential Reading
Acton, Mary; Learning to look at Modern Art (2004)
Collings, Matthew; This is Modern Art (1999)
Gombrich, E.H ;The Story of Art (1995)
Kent, Sarah; Shark Infested Waters: Saatchi Collection of British Art in the
90’s (1994)
Lynton, Norbert; Story of Modern Art (1989)
Stallabrass, Julian; High Art Lite, British art in the 1990’s (1999)
Stallabrass, Jullian ;Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction (2006)
Further Reading:
Ackroyd, Pete;r London The Biography (2000)
Barnbrook, J (ed) ;Young British Artists (1998)
Barthes, Roland; Image, Music Text (1981)
Buck, Louisa & Dodd, P; Relative Values or What Art is Worth (1991)
Buck, Louisa; Moving Targets 2 A User’s Guide to British Art Now (2000)
Collings, Matthew; Blimey: From Bohemia to Brit Pop
The London Art World from Francis Bacon to Damian Hirst
Docherty, Thomas; Postmodernism: A Reader (1993)
Fascina,Francis; & Art in Modern Culture
Foster, Hal; Postmodern Culture (1985)
Foster, Hal Return to the Real (2000)
Harris, Jonathan; An Anthology of Critical Texts (1992)
Harrison, Charles; & Art in Theory: 1900 – 1990
Wood, Paul; An Anthology of Changing Ideas (1992)
Harrison, Charles; Art in Theory: 1815 - 1900
Wood, Paul; An Anthology of Changing Ideas (1998)
Hirst, Damien & Burn, G; On the Way to Work (2000)
Mirzoeff, Nicholas; An Introduction to Visual Culture (1999)
Muir, Gregor; Lucky Kunst: The Story of YBA (2009)
Sinclair, Iain; Lights Out for the Territory (1997)
Thompson, Don; The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of
Contemporary Art (2008)
Timms, Bradley, Hayward (eds);Young British Art: The Saatchi Decade (1999)
Vasari, Giorgio; (1511-74) Lives of Artists
Periodical References
Frieze, Art Monthly, Parkett, Art Review, Tempa Celeste, Modern Painters
WWW References

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