AUB is experiencing some major changes this semester such as the new crop of freshmen students, the tobacco free campaign, and Jeanne D’Arc Street’s excavation. These are not the only changes the university is undergoing as, academically, there have also been milestones including the arrival of a new master’s program which has yet to receive its due recognition.
The 2017-2018 fall semester marks the first semester of the newly created Master’s Program in Art History and Curating in the Department of Fine Arts and Art History.
According to the FAAH website, the curriculum is a comprehensive mix of “modern and contemporary art history and theory; Byzantine Renaissance art history; Islamic art history; curatorial methods, theories and practices; aesthetic theory; critical theory; psychoanalytic theory; theories of vision and visuality; and image theory.”
Students enrolled in this program are going to conceptualize and develop their own projects including art exhibitions, research projects, and an extended thesis paper.
“The impetus for creating the MA program in Art History and Curating several years ago was to address main issues both in the academic discipline in Lebanon and the region and in the field of exhibition making practices,” said Angela Harutyunyan, associate professor of Art History.
In this statement, Harutyunyan clarifies the motivation behind the creation of the program.
According to her, AUB is the only institution that currently offers a degree in Art History in Lebanon, and it is one of a few places where students can receive this degree in the MENA region.
“[With the] rapid institutionalization of modern and contemporary art in Lebanon and the region with the construction of museums and art centers, there is a lack of curators who are grounded not only in the administrative and managerial aspects of making exhibitions but also have art historical and theoretical knowledge,” said Harutyunyan.
Harutyunyan also, in accordance with the above statement, highlights the tendency of Gulf institutions to focus on their heritage and preservation. The new MA promises potential to fill in these gaps.
In Lebanon, the only other master’s program of this nature is the Master en critique d’art et curatoriat at the Université Saint Joseph. The program focuses on art of the Arab world but also features museum studies, curating, and cultural management courses. The program at AUB will cover the same areas of focus but with additional focus on the international contemporary art scene.
“Having looked into programs abroad in art history, film studies, visual studies, curating, critical theory, I found that few programs offer the kind of critical engagement I was looking for. The faculty of the department of Fine Arts and Art History foreground the relationship between aesthetics and politics and are informed by a rigorous and politically accountable model of critical theory which is unparalleled in Masters Programs, both here and abroad,” said Natasha Gasparian, a graduate student currently enrolled in the program, as she reflects on her decision.
Students in the Art History bachelor’s program are integrated into the Beirut art scene, and many have had jobs and internships around the city as well as in countries abroad. The master’s program has the potential to open wider channels of collaboration between students, faculty, and both local and international art institutions.