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MA/MFA Art in the Contemporary World

Art in the Contemporary World is a taught Masters programme that examines contemporary art practices and their contexts.

What to Expect

Art in the Contemporary World is a taught masters programme that examines contemporary art practices and their contexts. The course offers an opportunity for focused engagement with the varied challenges presented by today’s most ambitious art. It bridges the relationship between theory and practice by creating exciting study options for artists, curators, writers and other practitioners. We welcome graduates from a variety of backgrounds, including: fine art; art history; philosophy; literature; film studies; architecture; communications; or design; and we are also happy to consider applications from students from other backgrounds.

There are 2 pathways available:

  1. a ‘theory only’ MA (1 year FT/ 2 year PT);
  2. a longer theory/ practice MFA.

All students take the theory modules in their first period of study. MA students complete a major research topic (typically a written thesis) by the end of the year; MFA students undertake a further 2 semesters of practice. A key feature of the MFA is that practice is understood in an expanded sense to include not only studio practices (represented by NCAD studio expertise) but also practices facilitated by Visual Culture staff including: curating; critical and creative writing; event organisation.

Course content for the Visual Culture theory modules is divided into four thematic strands:

  1. ‘Practices’ explores the range of current international art practices;
  2. ‘Situations’ is comprised of elective options addressing social and cultural contexts for art practice today or occasions of interdisciplinary crossover with other fields;
  3. ‘Theories’ is a series of seminars focusing on key theoretical approaches relevant to contemporary art;
  4. ‘Writing’ explores different models and strategies for writing on art.

Opportunities to Engage

Art in the Contemporary World regularly collaborates with key cultural institutions in Ireland, running courses and events with the Irish Museum of Modern Art; Goethe Institut; Irish Film Institute; Dublin City Gallery; Kerlin Gallery; Paper Visual Art (journal). Art in the Contemporary World functions as a forum for debate on contemporary art theory and practice, regularly hosting public events involving course participants. In past years guests at such events have included: Massimiliano Gioni, curator of the Venice Biennale, 2013, and Director of Exhibitions at the New Museum, New York; Katrina Brown, director of The Common Guild, Glasgow; Frieze magazine senior editor Dan Fox; comedian Stewart Lee; film-maker Kenneth Anger; writer Rebecca Solnit; art critic Irving Sandler; and artists Lynda Benglis, Liam Gillick, Susan Philipsz and Walid Raad.

The intellectual and cultural life of Art in the Contemporary World staff and students is mapped on the student website at, where details of the activities above can be found as well as recommendations of books, films and music. Art in the Contemporary World also has a residency at Dublin Digital Radio where the team shares ideas and opinion on a regular podcast.

Programme Team:

Dr Declan Long, MA PhD

Declan Long lectures on contemporary art theory and practice. He is a contributor to Artforum, Frieze and Source Photographic Review. He is the author of Ghost Haunted Land: Contemporary Art and Post-Troubles Northern Ireland (Manchester University Press, 2017; paperback edition 2020). In 2013 he was a member of the judging panel for the Turner Prize. More information can be found at

Dr Francis Halsall, MA PhD

Francis Halsall is a lecturer in the history and theory of modern and contemporary art at NCAD and also visiting research fellow in Art History at University of the Free State, Bloemfontaine, South Africa.
His research covers three main areas:

  1. The history, theory and practice of modern and contemporary art;
  2. Philosophical aesthetics;
  3. The cultural reception of Systems Theory. He has lectured and published extensively in all these areas in academic and non-academic contexts.

More details

Dr Sarah Pierce MFA, PhD

Sarah Pierce is an artist, researcher and academic whose trans-disciplinary practice takes place across a range of contexts, from exhibition-making and performance, writing and publishing, research and pedagogy. Her methods often highlight a continual renegotiation of the terms for making art and the potential for dissent and self-determination. Sarah’s work has appeared in major biennials and institutions internationally, and she is a published writer and contributor to several anthologies on art and curating. Research Interests: Student culture; Rebellion and archives; Radical pedagogies; Instituent practices; Dispersive and asocial communities; Knowledge, gesture and the curatorial.

After Your Degree

Graduates from Art in the Contemporary World have gone on to receive international awards and residencies, to take up respected curatorial positions and to publish their writings in prominent academic journals and art magazines.


The programme is open to graduates with an honours degree award of 2.2 or higher, or an equivalent academic or professional qualification in a relevant discipline. The College also takes into consideration prior learning and experience. English language: Students who have not been educated through English must show proof of achieving IELTS 6.5 (with a minimum of 6 in the writing section on the Academic Version) or an equivalent score in another accepted test.

MA/MFA Art in the Contemporary World

Duration : 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
90 ECTS credits/Taught Masters/Visual Culture Pathway

Duration : 2 years
120 ECTS credits/Theory-Practice Pathway

Apply now:
Programme Contact

Dr Declan Long:
Dr Francis Halsall:
Dr Sarah Pierce:


To find out more about the entry requirements, application process and tuition fees visit –