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Curating Contemporary Art and Design: Theory and Practice

A critical introduction to curating practice and curatorial thinking in contemporary art and design.

Dates: New dates to be announced soon

Duration: Five days

Location: RCA Kensington

Regular price: £1,250

Please note: ​​​​​the course fee does not include materials, accommodation, food or transport. The fee includes all admission charges to temporary exhibitions and permanent collections.

Register your interest

Course overview

This one-week summer school provides an immersive introduction to contemporary curatorial thinking and practice in art and design. It offers critical perspectives from the viewpoint of experts who curate, research and write in the cultural sector, with a unique opportunity for participants to engage with London’s diverse creative scene.

The summer school emphasises critical thinking around curating practice and theory in a contemporary context. As well as looking at galleries and museums, the sessions consider wider modes of delivery such as interventions, public programmes, publications and digital platforms.

Led by the School of Arts & Humanities, the course team is comprised of London-based curators, critics, researchers, historians and writers. The short course combines analytical debate with practical, hands-on activities taught in the world’s leading art and design university. As a forum for learning in a collaborative, lively atmosphere, the course also offers the opportunity to gain one-to-one support and advice from our faculty of experts and visiting speakers.

The course will provide a concentrated programme of workshops, masterclasses, behind-the-scenes visits, project work and critical debate. As well as experts from the Royal College of Art, previous years have included sessions with renowned curators and researchers from Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Somerset House, the Museum of Modern Art and influential London fine art galleries and commissioners such as Cubitt Gallery and UP Projects.  

Considering factors such as identity, geopolitics, social economics, digital developments and the creative economies, participants will be encouraged to consider critically the role of art and design in the expanded field. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, you will explore a range of fine art and design disciplines in international contexts.

What will I learn?

    You will:
    • engage with current debates in art and design
    • explore contemporary critical and curatorial practice
    • understand how curatorial projects are conceived, researched and delivered
    • learn how to pitch project ideas.

    How will I learn?

      You will learn from:
      • masterclasses
      • one-to-one support and advice from subject experts
      • workshops and crits
      • collaborative projects
      • visits to London galleries, studios and museums.

      Sample programme

      Each morning will consist of a masterclass, followed by a workshop with discussion of the day’s task. Afternoons will include visits to exhibitions, galleries and studios, with workshops and crits that are designed to develop the skills and insights vital to curators and critics.

      Who should attend?

        The Curating Contemporary Art and Design course is designed for early-career professionals in the arts, as well as graduates considering vocations in curatorial practices and related critical contexts. It is also suitable for those considering a change of career or a means to develop their own personal and professional practice and experience through curating or research. Previous students have gone on to deliver work together that originated in the summer school via collaborative projects and new networks established during the summer school. 

        Who is this course suitable for:

        • art and design graduates
        • early- and mid-career professionals from the cultural sector
        • curators and arts programmers
        • artists and designers
        • writers
        • researchers.

        Course theme for July 2020: Why now? The urgency of curating

        The theme of the RCA Curating Contemporary Art and Design course in summer 2020 is Why now? The urgency of curating. Taking this as a central provocation, participants are encouraged to consider the value of curating art and design in the present moment. You will engage in workshops, seminars, tours and visits across London, experiencing the latest developments in contemporary art and design curating. At each point of encounter, we will ask: why this? Why now? Is it urgent? Throughout the week you will work collaboratively in small groups learning to think collectively, while independently developing your own curatorial positions. At the end of the week, each group will present a project, which could be in the form of an exhibition proposal, publication, digital project, event, performance, or another medium that responds to the specific question selected by that group.

        'Today we are confronted with an ever-expanding range of complex and critical issues that are shaping our present and future worlds. The course theme for 2020 will focus on what role we play and how we can creatively and productively engage with such urgent matters today.'

        – Professor Victoria Walsh, Head of Programme for MA Curating Contemporary Art

        Programme team

        The course is convened by academic leader Rosie Ram who is a Visiting Lecturer and Doctoral Candidate at the Royal College of Art. Most recently, Rosie has been working with Tate Britain where she has co-curated Vital Fragments: Nigel Henderson and the Art of Collage. Previously, Rosie was academic coordinator of The Artist Collective Summer School, a joint initiative between Yale University, the Paul Mellon Centre, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Rosie is a specialist in modern and contemporary visual culture. Her interests include collaborative artistic practices, as well as intersections between art, architecture, photography and design. Her PhD is funded by an AHRC scholarship and she was awarded a fellowship at the Yale Centre for British Art. Rosie has shared her research via print, film, online and in public presentations. She has curated displays, taught and programmed events at Central Saint Martins and Chelsea College of Arts. Prior to her doctorate, Rosie worked at Chisenhale Gallery.

        The course is overseen by Professor Victoria Walsh, Head of Programme for MA Curating Contemporary Art. Her research and exhibition work spans from the post-war period to the contemporary with a particular focus on interdisciplinary collaborations between artists, architects and designers. She has published and lectured widely on her curatorial and research projects including ‘New Brutalist Image’ (Tate Britain, 2016); ‘Richard Hamilton: Growth and Form’ (Tate Modern, London 2014), ‘Transfigurations’ (MACBA, Barcelona) and ‘Cultural Value and the Digital’ (Tate Research 2014). She is particularly interested in collaboration as a form of curatorial practice; the impact of the internet and digital technology on museums; and the role of the arts and culture in global cities.

        Teaching will be delivered by staff from the School of Art & Humanities

        The full list of academics and external practitioners names is to be announced.

        Admission criteria

        Participants must:
        • have an undergraduate degree 
        • have a good level of English language
        • be 18 years or over.

        How to apply

        Please note that we do not accept applications at the moment. 

        The information below does not apply until the course is live again:

        To apply, please complete our online application form. 

        This online form requires you to submit:

        • CV
        • 500-word statement explaining relevant professional and/or academic experience.

        If your application is accepted you will be emailed with a booking link. A deadline for accepting and paying for your place will be provided in the email. Your place will be held until this deadline, if you do not make payment by this date then your place will be released and offered to another participant. 

        If your application is unsuccessful we will inform you by email. Unfortunately we are not able to provide individual feedback due to the high volume of applications that we receive. 

        If the course is fully booked and your application is successful we will add your name to a waiting list. 

        Application deadlines 

        Applications will be assessed by the RCA course team every two weeks or until the course is fully booked.  

        We will inform all applicants by email within two weeks after submission of an application. If the course is fully booked and your application is successful we will add your name to a waiting list.

        We particularly advise early application if you will need a tourist visa to enter the UK. See the RCA Short Courses FAQ for more information. 

        Disclaimer: The information given is accurate at the time of publication, however, the RCA reserves the right to amend the described courses as circumstances dictate.


        School of Arts & Humanities Executive Education
        [email protected]
        +44 (0)20 7590 4279

        Please review our FAQs to keep up to date with the latest information about Coronavirus (Covid-19) and how it affects the RCA short courses.

        Please register your interest to download the full course description.

        "The RCA course has completely changed the way I approach curation, it gave me a different lens looking at curation, programming and exhibitions." Joyce Li

        Assistant Director (Programmes & Grants), Design Trust

        "As a business graduate, it is definitely an eye-opening course for me to think differently and understand the curatorial mindset." Tendy Lam

        Assistant Manager, Hong Kong Trade Development Council

        "The programme is well paced, and provides participants with a platform for rather well-rounded discussions through a forum of diverse audiences, international perspectives and a balanced set of academics and practitioners." Bernard Tan

        Deputy Director, Audience & Contemporary Art, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

        "Together with the inspiring workshop leaders, who bring expertise and unique perspectives, we create a week of insightful debate and critical reflection on curating in art and design." Professor Victoria Walsh
        Victoria Walsh
        Victoria Walsh
        Rosie Ram
        Rosie Ram