Students participating in this program will have the chance to experience and analyze some of the most recent and important works of art in three of the most significant global exhibitions of contemporary art: the Venice Biennale, Documenta (in Kassel, Germany), and the Berlin Biennale. These periodic exhibitions offer an opportunity for scholars of recent art to pause to “take the pulse” of the art world, to note the major trends and cultural producers active today, and to speculate on where these trends will go in the future. For artists, architects, filmmakers, and designers, these exhibitions provide an unparalleled opportunity to showcase their work to a large and diverse global audience. Students will, therefore, immerse themselves in the current state of the art world, learn about the major artists and artistic themes active today, and place them into an historical context. In addition, students will be asked to think critically about the institutions that comprise the contemporary art world: not only the mega-exhibitions themselves, but also museums, commercial galleries, auction houses, and art journals. Since some of the most significant art criticism that responds to current art trends lives online, students will create their own art blog where their responses to these fascinating works will be assembled for a broad public.

The seminar will begin in Venice, Italy, where students will both spend time with the sprawling and immense Biennale exhibition and learn about the immediate historical precedents for the work we will be studying up close. After roughly three weeks in Italy, students will then travel to Kassel, Germany to visit and study Documenta, an exhibition featuring politically charged work that is staged every five years. Students will then have a short break—during which time they can make short trips elsewhere in Europe—after which time we will all reconvene in Berlin, Germany. There, we will continue our exploration into contemporary art trends by visiting the Berlin Biennale. As Berlin as emerged as important global art hub, we will also have the opportunity to visit various contemporary art venues and artists’ studios while in the city.