Online course: What Is Contemporary Art? (part of the Long term online programme: Modern and Contemporary Art and Design)

Dates: any time

Duration: 12 hours

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 out of 1376 ratings (see top rating courses here)

Participating countries: any country

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Organizer: The Museum of Modern Art at Coursera


  • FREE
  • $49 with sharable certificate

What Is Contemporary Art?

What is contemporary art? In this course, you’ll consider this question through more than 70 works of art made between 1980 and the present, with a focus on art from the past decade. You’ll hear directly from artists, architects, and designers from around the globe about their creative processes, materials, and inspiration.

Five themes serve as your guide: Media from Television to the Internet, Territories & Transit, Materials & Making, Agency, and Power. You’ll look at 3-D–printed glass and fiber sculptures, performances in a factory and a museum, painted portraits—as well as those made with artificial intelligence—and interventions into television and video games. And much more, all drawn from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art.

Come along as artists invite us into their studios, out into their neighborhoods, and to experiment with the materials they use. Not only will you develop a deeper understanding of how artists work today, you’ll also explore some of their many approaches to the pressing issues and questions of our time. By taking this course, you’ll gain confidence to look at contemporary art wherever you encounter it and make connections to your own life or creative practice.




WEEK 1: 1 hour to complete

Introduction to What Is Contemporary Art?

What Is Contemporary Art?
Welcome to the course!
Course instructors respond: what is contemporary art?
Suggestions for making the most of the course
We want to hear from you
Recordings of live virtual sessions (optional)
Resources: MoMA podcasts, art vocabulary, Magazine, and YouTube channel

WEEK 2: 2 hours to complete

Media from Television to the Internet
In the studio with Arthur Jafa | “The place where images overlap is you”
Beatriz González on her street posters in Bogotá, 1983
Alfredo Jaar on Lament of the Images, 2002
Dayanita Singh on Museum of Chance, 2013
Susan Kare on designing the first Mac icons, 1980s
Arthur Jafa, APEX, 2013
Three approaches to appropriation
How do artists and architects share and circulate images?1
Two interventions in television and architecture
How are images used to watch and classify us?
Surveilling, seeing, scanning
What do video games and computers have to do with art and design?
JODI on turning desktop order inside out
Serious games and artificial intelligence

WEEK 3: 2 hours to complete

Territories & Transit

In the studio with Rael San Fratello | Transforming the wall
Bouchra Khalili on The Mapping Journey Project, 2008–11
Mateo López on Travel without Movement, 2008–10
Shellyne Rodriguez on Martin Wong, Stanton near Forsyth Street, 1983
IRWIN on NSK Garda, 2002
Amanda Williams on Color(ed) Theory Suite, 2014–16
Rael San Fratello, Teeter-Totter Wall, 2014
Crossing borders
Claiming space
Changing states
Sky Hopinka on Jáaji Approx., 2015
Portfolio: Teresa Margolles, Pista de baile (Dance Floor), 2016

WEEK 4: 2 hours to complete

Materials & Making

At the Museum with Sheila Hicks | Form, Texture, Color
Liz Deschenes on Tilt/Swing (360º field of vision, version 1), 2009
Sheela Gowda on Of All People, 2011
3-D printed architecture with Rael San Fratello
Lady Pink on Trust visions that don’t feature buckets of blood, 1983–84
Glenn Ligon on White #19, 1994
Amy Sillman on making and unmaking painting
Sheila Hicks, Pillar of Inquiry/Supple Column, 2013–141
Film, vinyl, and ultrasonic gel
How is contemporary art made?
Building, painting, printing
Luther Price, Sorry, 2005–12
Labor and work in contemporary art
Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen on 75 Watt, 2013
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Work/Travail/Arbeid, 2017

WEEK 5: 2 hours to complete


In New York City with Pope.L | Direct action
Two artists consider Catherine Opie, Dyke, 1993
Tania Bruguera on Untitled (Havana, 2000), 2000
Luis Camnitzer on Memorial, 2009
Nick Cave on Soundsuit, 2011
Lorraine O’Grady on Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, 1980–83/2009
Xiao Lu on Dialogue, 1989
Ralph Borland, Suited for Subversion (Prototype), 2002
William Pope.L’s New York crawls
Yara Said on the Refugee Flag, 2016
Firelei Báez on For Améthyste and Athénaïre (Exiled Muses Beyond Jean Luc Nancy’s Canon), Anacaonas, 2018
Who speaks?
Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Conflicted Phonemes, 2012
Patrick Staff on Weed Killer, 2017
Defining and blurring identities through performance

WEEK 6: 2 hours to complete


Instructor Christian Rattemeyer on Mark Lombardi’s diagrams of power
Deana Lawson on Nation, 2017
Wolfgang Tillmans on Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I, 2014
Curator Paola Antonelli on Massoud Hassani’s on Mine Kafon wind-powered deminer, 2011
Rania Ghosn on After Oil, 2016
What do war and peace have to do with chandeliers and portraits?
How do artists critique power?
Two responses to abuse of power
Power: sources and resources
Outer space to inner earth

Long term online programme: Modern and Contemporary Art and Design

This course is part of the Long term online programme: Modern and Contemporary Art and Design.

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