90719 - Modern and Contemporary Art

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

Students develop the critical and historical tools of modern and contemporary art. They mature the skills to analyse and contextualize the main artistic currents. They are also able to critically evaluate the works of art and develop the basic skills for carrying out independent research. In particular, they acquire the tools to frame and understand the most important art movements from the Nineteenth Century to the present times.

Course contents

The course explores some fundamental moments in the history of contemporary art from the 1950s to the present, focusing on the main methodological, thematic and theoretical issues that have emerged in the visual arts. It opens with a discussion on various genres of painting of the post-war period, from Abstract Expressionism to Art Brut, in reference to the theories of “modernist painting” elaborated by Clement Greenberg. The second lecture will discuss tactics such as détournement, assemblage and replica, variously developed within artistic movements that emerged in the 1960s in response to consumerist culture, from Situationism to Pop Art. Then, other artistic movements and practices of the 1960s will be explored, this time based on the idea of art as a “process”, i.e. Minimalism and conceptual art in the third lecture, and some hybrid practices developed in response to or relationship with technology, i.e. video, cybernetics and intermedia, in the fourth lecture.


The fifth and sixth lecture will be dedicated to performative practices developed in reaction to some institutions, now those of art and now those of society, from Fluxus to feminist art. The next two lectures, seven and eight, will focus on crucial issues of postmodernist art such as the appropriationist approach of the Pictures Generation and pastiche. While the ninth lecture will focus on anti-academic art practices, born in so-called underground or subcultural environments, from the tenth lecture onwards will be examined currents that have emerged since the 1990s in relation to the impact of globalization, the liberalist logic of media and economy, and the profusion of digital technologies and the Internet. These include: Post Human, Abject Art, YBAs, Relational Aesthetics, installation art, socially engaged art, post-Internet art and various contemporary forms of painting, photography and video installation.



1. Painting in the 1950s: Expressionisms, Abstraction and Disfiguration

2. Art and the Everyday in the 1960s: Situationism, Assemblage and Pop Art

3. Processes and Systems: Minimalism, Conceptual Art and Arte Povera

4. Art and Technology: Video, Cybernetics and Intermedia

5. The Museum Deconstructed: Happening, Land Art, Fluxus and Institutional Critique

6. Body Politics: Performance Art and Feminist Art

7. Postmodernism: The Pictures Generation

8. Postmodernism: Pastiche, Neo-Expressionism and Neo-Geo

9. Art from Below: Punk, Graffiti Art and Other Subcultures

10. Mutations and Transgressions: Post Human, Abject Art and the YBA’s

11. Participation and Immersion: Relational Aesthetics and Installation Art

12. Art and Politics: Postcolonialism, Public Art e Art Collectives

13. Art and Media: Contemporary Genres of Painting and Photography

14. Cinematic Art: From Experimental Film to Video Installations

15. Post-Internet: Digital Technologies, Internet and Artificial Intelligence


The bibliography consists of a selection of texts that can be downloaded as teaching material from the page “insegnamenti online” linked to the course webpage. A total of 30 essays will be provided, 2 for each class. Most of the readings selected are essays or articles by art historians and critics, including: Erika Balsom, Raymond Bellour, Claire Bishop, Nicolas Bourriaud, Germano Celant, Douglas Crimp, Arthur Danto, Clement Greenberg, Boris Groys, David Joselit, Rosalind Krauss e Linda Nochlin. The selection features also writings by artists such as Guy Debord, Andrea Fraser and Coco Fusco.

Teaching methods

Teaching will be carried out in "traditional" teaching mode, that is, through face-to-face lectures.

Restricted places for incoming exchange students:

Places for incoming exchange students in this teaching activity are limited and are primarily reserved to students enrolled in art related programmes at their home university. To check availability, please write to amac@unibo.it

Assessment methods

At the end of the course, the student will be assigned a grade based on a final oral exam that evaluates the methodological and critical abilities acquired. Exams will be conducted individually and structured around a set of random questions on the readings, the case studies taken into account and the topics discussed in class. Attendance is highly recommended as well as active participation in class through comments and observations. Because there is no textbook for this course, it is strongly advised to take notes in class.

Teaching tools

The case studies are documented through the projection of audiovisual material.

Office hours

See the website of Francesco Maria Spampinato