96403 - Phenomenology of Contemporary Art. Fundamentals (1) (M-Z)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Decent work and economic growth Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course the student: knows the fundamental categories and practices of contemporary art, both in terms of technical-linguistic and theoretical aspects; understands the role assumed by the visual arts in the transition between the 19th and 21st centuries, in their specific development and relation to the parallel trends of other artistic disciplines; is able to understand the contribution made by contemporary art to the development of visual culture with particular attention to technological, media, and social issues.

Course contents

The course aims to introduce students to the fundamental characteristics and problems of contemporary art, i.e., the aspects that have developed and have been commonly accepted, in the transition between the 19th and the 21st century, as fundamental to defining artistic practices. The topics addressed will be, in particular, the following: the definition and the meanings of contemporary art, the mediums and the characteristics of the work, the role of the artist, the dynamics of the art system—from the market to the different forms of circulation—and the evolution of a pluralistic and global perspective.

The course, of 30 hours in total, is subdivided into 15 lessons of 2 hours each, which are articulated into 5 units dedicated to exploring specific areas of contemporary art. In the first unit, the main parameters of periodization of contemporaneity will be exposed, the forms and contexts will be identified, and the meanings usually attributed to contemporary art will be discussed. The second unit is devoted to the work of art, i.e., the mediums commonly adopted by artists, issues related to the uniqueness of the work, and the rise of forms of expression that understand the work as an experience.

The third unit will consider the perception and social role of the artist, with a focus on the convergences between art and life, collective practices, and the evolution in the working methodologies of visual artists. The fourth unit will consider the founding features of the art system, from the role of the public to the art market and the idea of the exhibition. Finally, the fifth unit will examine the emergence of a pluralistic perspective in light of issues related to feminism, gender identity, postcolonialism, and globalization.



1. Attempts of periodization

2. Forms and contexts

3. Goals and meanings


4. Mediums and practices

5. Uniqueness vs. reproducibility

6. Art as Experience


7. The Myth of the Artist

8. From the Author to the Collective

9. Working Methodologies


10. Spaces, professions and audience

11. The Economic Value

12. The exhibition


13. Feminist art

14. Gender identity

15. Postcolonialism and globalization


The bibliography, valid for both attending students and non-attendees, consists of a selection of texts that can be downloaded in PDF format as teaching material from the "virtual" page of the course. The selection includes essays, articles, and texts of different nature written by philosophers, art historians, critics, curators, and artists. The selected readings will be arranged in sequence to correspond with the various lectures in the course. The student is invited to read the material before the corresponding lecture. The texts in question will be discussed in the exam.

Teaching methods

Due to the restrictions imposed by the current health emergency, teaching will be carried out with “traditional" teaching methods, i.e. the teacher will always be present in the classroom designated for teaching, students will alternate in attendance according to a schedule of shifts being defined (more detailed information about the shift and how to access the lesson in attendance will be provided later). It will always be possible to connect remotely and follow the lectures in the classroom live streaming via the TEAMS platform.

Assessment methods

At the end of the course, the student will be required to take a final oral examination to assess the methodological and critical skills acquired. Exams will be conducted individually and structured around a series of random questions about the readings, the case studies considered, and the topics discussed.

Teaching tools

Case studies are documented through the projection of audio-visual materials. Presentations used by the instructor will be made available to students through the "virtual" platform at the end of each week.

Office hours

See the website of Francesco Maria Spampinato