Spaces of Art

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History of Art and Archaeology & School of Arts

Module overview

Alongside studying individual objects, art historians also examine the spaces, locations, institutions and contexts within which they may be seen and evaluated.

This module will introduce the many contexts of use for objects, including the religious, social and material circumstances in which a 'work of art' was created and used. By considering individual objects or groups in a variety of media, we may explore how settings and institutions contribute to the production of the meaning and value of objects and material culture.

Furthermore, the constructions of an object's meaning may change over time especially when it moves from one space to another. How may an object produced for use in a religious environment in Asia or Africa become a 'work of art' in the different context of a museum or exhibition? How has the art market transformed the meanings and value of objects from Asia and Africa? This module examines these issues and the changing contexts and meanings of objects from Asia and Africa.

Classroom discussion will be complemented by fieldtrips to, for example, a gallery, museum or religious building.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Understand a range of spaces, locations, institutions and contexts in which objects have been located in Asia and Africa.
  • Evaluate how the religious, social and material circumstances in which objects have been made and used contribute to their meaning.
  • Interpret the changing constructions of meaning of objects over time.
  • Demonstrate a range of skills in visual and literary analysis, research and other study skills for successful academic and vocational pathways.


  • Lectures: 2 hours per week
  • Seminars: 1 hour per week

Scope and syllabus

This module will outline approaches to objects that consider their function and context of use. This will be followed by historic and contemporary contexts for the study of objects in Asia and Africa, and in other locations across the world. The contexts for study may include religious sites, such as a temple or mosque, courts in the Islamic world or East Asia, colonial and postcolonial museums and exhibitions, and the art market.

Method of assessment

  • 500-word critical literature review/short report (worth 15% of marks)
  • 1,500-word essay (worth 40%)
  • Seminar participation and logbook entries (worth 10%)
  • Exam: 2 hours (worth 35%)

Suggested reading

  • Craig Clunas, Art in China, 2nd ed., Oxford History of Art (Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • Richard H. Davis, Lives of Indian Images (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997).
  • Finbarr Barry Flood and Gulru Necipoglu, eds., A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, 2 vols, Blackwell Companions to Art History (Somerset: John Wiley & Sons, 2017).
  • Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Postcolonial India (New York and Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2004).
  • Sharon Macdonald, ed., A Companion to Museum Studies (Chichester, West Sussex, UK ; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006).
  • Olu Oguibe, and Okwui Enwezor. Reading the Contemporary: African Art From Theory to the Marketplace. London: inIVA, 1999.
  • Maurizio Peleggi, Monastery, Monument, Museum : Sites and Artifacts of Thai Cultural Memory (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2017).
  • Stacey Pierson. From Object to Concept: Global Consumption and the Transformation of Ming Porcelain. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013.
    Louise Tythacott, The Lives of Chinese Objects : Buddhism, Imperialism and Display (New York: Berghahn Books, 2011).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules