Art History and Archaeology

Program Category: MA Programs
Chair: Barry Bergdoll
Director of Graduate Studies: Avinoam Shalem
Director of MA in Art History: Frédérique Baumgartner
Director of  MA in Modern and Contemporary Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies: Janet Kraynak
Degree Programs:  Full-Time/Part-Time: Free-Standing MA in Art History and Archaeology; Full-Time/Part-Time: Free-Standing MA in Modern Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies

The Department of Art History and Archaeology offers programs of instruction in the history, theory, and criticism of art and archaeology. These programs are intended to prepare students for careers in scholarship and teaching and in curatorial work and museum administration, as well as for independent research and critical writing. The department offers one of the richest graduate programs in the discipline, and students are encouraged to take advantage of its variety of subjects and approaches.

The MA program includes the following specialties:

  • Ancient Art and Archaeology
    • West Asian (Near Eastern)
    • Greek
    • Roman
  • Art and Architecture of Africa and the African Diaspora
  • Art and Architecture of the Lands of Islam
  • East Asian Art and Archaeology
  • History and Theory of Architecture
    • Ancient
    • Early Christian, Byzantine, Western Medieval
    • Renaissance and Baroque
    • Modern
  • History of Western Art
    • Early Christian, Byzantine, Western Medieval Art
    • Renaissance and Baroque Art
    • 18th and 19th-Century European Art
    • American Art (pre-1914)
  • History of Photography (pre-1900)
  • Art and Architecture of the Americas until 1500 (“Pre-Columbian”)
  • South Asian Art and Archaeology

Those who wish to study 20th and 21st-Century Art and Architecture should apply to the MA program in Modern Art and Contemporary Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies (MODA)

The MODA program includes the following specialties:

  • American Art (pre- and post-1945)
  • Art and Architecture of Africa and the African Diaspora
  • Pre- and Post-war History of Photography and New Media
  • Latin American Art

The Department of Art History and Archaeology is a member of the Doctoral Program Subcommittee on Classical Studies and the Interdepartmental Committee on Medieval and Renaissance Studies and participates in the Program in Historic Preservation in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

The Free-Standing MA Program

Students are accepted into the program and mentored by a faculty member in the proposed field of study. For this reason, it is vital that applicants to the MA in Art History and Archaeology program consult—well before the application deadline—with the faculty member most closely allied with their interests to discuss the planned course of study. Following consultation, the applicant should indicate the faculty member's name on the application. Recipients of the free-standing MA in Art History and Archaeology will be considered for admission to the PhD program only upon re-application. Students who are interested in earning a PhD are advised to apply to the PhD program in the first year of their MA program. The department also offers a free-standing MA in Modern Art and Contemporary Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies (MODA).


The resources of the department extend beyond the classroom: the Avery Memorial Architecture and Fine Arts Library, the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, the Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, and the many museums and art galleries of New York offer an incomparable array of world art on permanent and temporary exhibition. The Media Center for Art History provides learning opportunities for graduate students in the area of new imaging and information technologies. More information is available on the department's website.

Other Resources for Study

Aside from the regular courses, a varied program of individual lectures and colloquia by distinguished visitors is offered at frequent intervals. In addition, the department hosts various fora that bring together faculty and graduate students in the New York area. Programs are available on the department's website for the Robert Branner Forum for Medieval Art and Architecture, the Howard Hibbard Forum for Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture, and the Collins/Kaufmann Forum for Modern Architectural History. The Graduate Student Colloquium, founded and organized by students in the department, provides an informal forum in which students and faculty can present their various projects. Work in Progress, a series similarly founded and organized by graduate students, extends its reach to the faculty and students in Columbia University's Visual Arts Program.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, in existence since 1986, has presented many widely noted exhibitions. Most exhibits are planned and curated by faculty and graduate students. Seminars devoted to preparing exhibitions and their accompanying catalogues are occasionally offered.

In addition to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, the many collections and libraries of New York City provide opportunities for further study and research. Students have free access to most of these. In several, such as the Metropolitan Museum, the Frick Collection, the Museum of Modern Art, and the New-York Historical Society, special facilities are available for students. Periodically, graduate seminars are taught by museum curators and meet at the museums. The galleries of art dealers offer an ever-changing series of exhibitions in which the works of the most recent artists, as well as of the more established ones, can be seen. Various private collections in New York, through the courtesy of their owners, are often made accessible to students under the guidance of their instructors. Visits to museums and collections form part of the assigned work in many of the courses. Trips are occasionally made to out-of-town museums. The department also offers courses on a regular basis at Reid Hall in Paris.

Special Admissions Requirements: 

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, a writing sample (a course paper, term paper, etc.), and three letters of evaluation from academic sources.

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

For more information, refer to our Admissions Information and Frequently Asked Questions pages.

Deadline for Fall Admission: Thursday, December 16, 2021
Resume Requirement: Yes
Writing Sample: Yes
Writing Sample Number of Pages: 10-15
GRE General:

Requirement Waived for Fall 2022 Applications

Degree Programs: Full Time/Part Time
Free-Standing: Yes
Letters of Recommendation: 3


Generally applicants are expected to have taken a minimum of four undergraduate courses in art history, archaeology, or other fields related to art history. Reading knowledge of two or three foreign languages is recommended, since demonstration of proficiency in at least one language is required during the first year of study. All applicants should submit a sample of critical or scholarly writing. Applicants are encouraged to consult, and possibly meet, with a faculty member in the intended field of specialization prior to February 1. Applicants are advised to visit the department’s website or to contact the department for information about faculty specialties and availability, as well as for general information about the graduate program. The department does not grant advanced standing for previously completed coursework.