00951 - History of Contemporary Art

Course Unit Page


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

Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities Sustainable cities

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide knowledge of the main themes of the history of modern art of the sixteenth - eighteenth centuries through the deepening of episodes and moments of particular significance. At the end of the course the student is able to proceed with the historical and philological research on works of art, the investigation of the personalities and artistic paths of those who worked in the period under examination, phenomena and institutions of the time in Western Europe.

Course contents

The course of History of Contemporary Art aims at providing the student with basic notions and methods suitable for the comprehension of those complex, multiform and often apparently contradictory phenomena that populate the artistic horizon of the contemporary age, according to the manual, that is, from the end of the 18th century to the present day. However, greater weight will be given to questions and problems of twentieth-century art and, with regard to this year's course (as will be explained below), to its second part.

The student must mature in the conviction that, not from today, we must no longer confront ourselves with normative aesthetics and the category of Beauty, and that beyond the economic and social changes of the last two centuries, the real key to understanding contemporary developments in art lies above all in the technological progress that underlies artistic phenomena from both a symbolic and a substantial point of view.

In particular, the Student will become familiar with concepts that run through much of contemporary art, such as: the notions of abstraction, biomorphism, mechanomorphism and electromorphism, which are particularly important in a vision of artistic phenomena that takes into account the great technological changes; the concepts of ready-made, reproduction and citation, installation, performance, art as behavior and not only as an object; photography and its character of trace or sampling of worldly reality; the "pendular oscillations" of taste and the cyclical character of artistic making. It will be good to learn to use critically pairs of categorical values of great help to understand the phenomenology of contemporary art, such as, for example, the "synthesis" in its various aspects, figurative and not, the "hot" and the "cold", or the "closed" and the "open", the "tactile" and the "optical" or again, "primary" and "secondary", etc..

The course this year will focus mainly on the analysis of phenomena from World War II to almost the present day, which see the vitalistic reaction of informal art to the technological distrust that caused the tragedy of war, the shift of the center of art from Europe to the U.S.A, the celebration of the industrial object and, conversely, the analytical and tautological aspects of conceptual and minimal art along with all the non-traditional forms, the poetics of the body, up to the great return of pleasantness and decoration in the 1980s with references to the past and the future, to understand the complex articulation of the "life of forms."

These and other themes constitute the "substantial part" to which the lessons of the first two of the three days scheduled each week will be dedicated. Alongside and parallel to these topics, the lesson of the third day will be dedicated to a monographic course on the notion of decoration and decorative pattern from the end of the 19th century to the present day, in the light of updated theoretical considerations.



For the general part the obligatory basic text is:

Renato Barilli, L'arte contemporanea. Da Cézanne alle ultime tendenze, Feltrinelli, Milano 2005.

(However, since Barilli's text proposes a very personal and wide vision but does not exhaust the events of the history of contemporary art, it is advisable to refer also to any manual of art history - that of the high school is very good - naturally for the contemporary part, that is XIX -XXI century, in order to count on a more complete treatment of the subject, especially for those who have little knowledge of art history, and to be able to examine a greater number of illustrations; in any case it is advisable to resort to image research on the web to see works cited and not rephrased).

For the monographic part on the ornament and decoration the text, equally obligatory is:

G. L. Tusini, La pelle dell'ornamento. Dinamiche e dialettiche della decorazione tra Otto e Novecento, Bononia University Press, Bologna 2005

In addition to this, the preparation of one of the texts in this list is required:

R. Barilli, Prima e dopo il 2000. La ricerca artistica 1970-2005, Feltrinelli, Milano 2006.

O. Chiantore, A. Rava, Conservare l'arte contemporanea, Mondadori - Electa, Milano 2005

G. D'Amato, Storia del design, Bruno Mondadori, Milano, 2005

E. Di Stefano, Estetiche dell'ornamento, Mimesis, Milano 2006.

F. Fabbri, Lo zen e il manga. Arte contemporanea giapponese, Bruno Mondadori, Milano 2009

P. Fameli, Esperienza come forma. Le poetiche del Comportamento in Italia negli anni Settanta, BUP, Bologna 2019

C. Marra, L'immagine infedele. La falsa rivoluzione della fotografia digitale, Bruno Mondadori, Milano 2006

C. Marra, Fotografia e pittura nel Novecento (e oltre), Milano, Bruno Mondadori 2012.

F. Muzzarelli, Formato tessera. Storia, arte e idee in photomatic, Bruno Mondadori, Milano 2003

J. Nigro Covre, Arte contemporanea: le avanguardie storiche, Carocci, Roma 2008

L. Nochlin, Il realismo nella pittura europea del XIX secolo, Einaudi, Torino 2003

J. Rewald, Dopo l'Impressionismo, Sansoni, Firenze 2005

F. Tedeschi, La Scuola di New York. Origini, vicende, protagonisti, Vita & Pensiero, Milano 2009

M. Vitta, Il progetto della bellezza. Il design fra arte e tecnica, 1851-2001, Einaudi, Torino 2001

C. Zambianchi, Arte contemporanea: dall'espressionismo astratto alla pop art, Carocci, Roma 2011





Teaching methods

The method used involves the active partecipation of the students who are invited to speak during the lessons with observations. All this makes the lessons a chance to exchange views and debate.

Assessment methods

The test will consist of an oral examination in which the candidate will demonstrate that they have assimilated the content of the lesson, both in terms of fundamentals and in terms of references. Will be evaluated, as well as the degree of preparation, properties of language, knowledge of the authors which reference is made, the ability to build a speech critically aware. Training gaps, imprecise language, only rote learning will be evaluated negatively.

Those students who show developed analytical skills of selected readings and their correct contextualization within a complete vision of the issues discussed during lectures will be given a mark of excellence. Mastering of field-specific language and good expression during the examination will also be required (A =28-30 con lode).

Those students who show mnemonic knowledge of the subject and a superficial analysis of selected readings, as well as a correct but not always appropriate mastering of the field-specific language will be given a satisfactory mark (B = 25-27 and C = 23-24).

Those students who will show vague knowledge and superficial understanding of selected readings, limited analytical skills and a not always appropriate expression will be given a ‘pass’ mark roughly (D = 18-22).

Those students who show gaps in their knowledge and lack of familiarity with selected readings will not be given a ‘pass’ mark (E).

Teaching tools

The lectures will be supported by modern digital projection of images and the use of multimedia tools.

Visits to exhibitions and institutions are not excluded.

Office hours

See the website of Gian Luca Tusini