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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

Duration: Five days

Location: RCA Kensington

Fee: £1,250

Please note: ​​​​​all course fees are for the course only and do not include accommodation, food or transport.
The fee includes all admission charges to temporary exhibitions and permanent collections.

Please register your interest to join the waiting list for 2020.

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 a team of London-based historians, writers, researchers, critics and curators, 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 thinking
    • understand how exhibitions and related modes 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 and galleries, 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
        • writers
        • researchers.

        Programme team

        The programme is convened by academic leader Rebecca Bell who has taught on the course for the past four years. Rebecca studied Art History at the University of Glasgow and is currently completing a PhD between the V&A and Royal College of Art. She is Lecturer in Fashion Visual Cultures at Middlesex University. Before commencing her doctoral studies, she worked for ten years in contemporary art commissioning with organisations such as Art on the Underground and sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. Her research specialisms concern curating, craft, design and visual art, with an interest in Socialist Czechoslovakia. She is a member of designer-researcher collective Making Enhanced.  

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

        Teaching will be delivered by staff from the School of Art & Humanities including Dr Ben Cranfield and Rebecca Heald. The lineup includes:

        Linsey Young Curator of British Contemporary Art at Tate since 2016, where she is Lead Curator for the Turner Prize and works with the contemporary curatorial team to deliver monographic exhibitions, collection displays and the Art Now and film programmes. Recent projects include: Pablo Bronstein: Historical Dances in an Antique Setting, Turner Prize 2016, the Rachel Whiteread retrospective and Anthea Hamilton: The Squash. She is also currently the commissioner and curator of Scotland+Venice 2019. Prior to working at Tate, Linsey held curatorial positions at The British Council, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Inverleith House, Edinburgh. Since 2013 Linsey has run the not-for-profit exhibitions and publications project, Young Team.

        Mariam Zulfiqar is Deputy Director and Chief Curator at UP Projects. Mariam's curatorial and research interests are diverse and include cultural policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, moving image, art in the public domain, discourses around public spaces and the history of ideas. As an independent curator Mariam has worked with various arts and cultural organisations and commissioning bodies including Film and Video Umbrella, 1418 Now and Art on the Underground. Mariam has guest lectured at international and UK based educational institutions including Goldsmiths, the Royal College of Art, McGill University, Canada and National College of Art, Pakistan. In 2013, she was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Scholarship fund and invited to Barbados to undertake a two-month curatorial research placement. Mariam has a BA in Public Art & Design from Chelsea College of Art and Design and MA in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art.

        Hannah O'Leary is a Director and Head of Modern and Contemporary African Art at Sotheby's London. She was previously Head of Department Bonhams, where she helped pioneer the first international auctions of South African Art and Modern & Contemporary African Art. With 10 years’ experience in this field, and having overseen record-breaking sales in both categories, she returned to Sotheby’s in 2016 to further develop this burgeoning market. She is an international consultant to the South African National Gallery and contributing author to the Irma Stern retrospective catalogue ‘Brushing Up on Stern’ (Cape Town, 2015). She holds a Master’s degree in History of Art with Cultural Anthropology from Glasgow University.

        Marianne Mulvey is a curator, writer and educator. She has curated programmes around queer sincerity and performance architecture, amongst other things. From 2009-16 she was Curator, Public Programmes at Tate Britain / Modern and was recently Curator in residence at HIAP / Frame in Finland during September 2016. At Tate she programmed talks, symposia, film screenings, courses and workshops, performance and interdisciplinary events. Marianne has also worked at The Arts Council Collection, Hayward Gallery and Gasworks, and has been a Trustee of Fierce Festival in Birmingham since 2014. She teaches at higher education institutions nationally and internationally and is currently Visiting Tutor on MA Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art. Marianne holds an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths and is the recipient of a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership award to pursue a PhD with Tate and Royal College of Art in partnership with Open School East and Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art about public programming practice and art institutions.

        Marc Garrett is co-director and co-founder of the arts collective Furtherfield, London’s first dedicated gallery for networked media art. Marc has curated over 50 contemporary Media Arts exhibitions and projects, both nationally and internationally, including the renowned major exhibition Monsters of the Machine: Frankenstein in the 21st Century, at Laboral, Spain. He's currently co-curating the Time Portals Exhibition 2019 at Furtherfield to mark the 150th anniversary of Finsbury Park, exploring the past and future of urban green spaces. He's been involved in academia for 20 years and currently lectures at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication. Marc is completing a PhD from Birkbeck University of London.

        Admission criteria

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

        How to apply

        Please register your interest to join the waiting list for 2020.

        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
        +44 (0)20 7590 4545


        Please register your interest to join the waiting list for 2020.

        "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

        "I can't wait to use the knowledge gained from the workshops and apply it to my work." Alicja Ewertowska

        Head of Media in Société Gallery, Berlin

        "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." Rebecca Bell

        Course Leader

        Rebecca Bell
        Rebecca Bell