The study of modern and contemporary art at Penn is expansive in geographic range and media. Supported by core faculty members, teaching areas focus on European, American (including some Latin and South American), East Asian, and South Asian painting, sculpture, architecture, urbanism, prints, time-based art, photography, popular culture, decorative arts, cinema and new media. Established relationships with the Institute of Contemporary Art on Penn’s campus and the Philadelphia Museum of Art offer several students per year the opportunity to give spotlight lectures. Graduate students may also serve in the Print Room of the PMA as Zigrosser Fellows. Many other institutions frequently collaborate with the department, including the Arthur Ross Gallery at Penn, the Slought Foundation, International House, Scribe Video Center, and the Foundation for Self-Taught Artists, offering students the chance to organize exhibitions and serve as research fellows or curatorial interns. Graduate students may earn Certificates in Cinema Studies, or in Gender, Sexuality, and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies while fulfilling the requirements for the History of Art Ph.D.

An editor of OCTOBER and Artforum, Huey Copeland is a prolific critic, acclaimed scholar, and occasional curator of contemporary art in all media, with a focus on black, feminist, and critical practices from the 1960s to the present. 

Julie Nelson Davis teaches the art and architecture of East Asia from the early modern through the contemporary (ca. 1600 to the present).  Davis is a leading scholar of the prints and paintings of the “images of the floating world” (ukiyo-e); her work engages this subject both in its own time and in twentieth-century discourses.

Sonal Khullar researches modern and contemporary art with a focus on South Asia and the postcolonial world. Her current book project examines conflict, collaboration, and globalization in contemporary art from South Asia. She has offered courses on globality and postcoloniality in contemporary art, photography- and cinema-based art practice, site-specificity and socially engaged art, the globalizing art world, and histories of global modern and contemporary art. 

With a continuing interest in the uses of biography and history in the art of the United States and the African Diaspora, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw’s teaching focuses on issues of class, gender, sexuality, and race.  She regularly teaches ARTH: 2690: Contemporary Art and ARTH7940: Topics in Contemporary Art. In addition to writing on contemporary art for Art in America and Hyperallergic, Shaw has curated numerous exhibitions of contemporary art, including “Kara Walker: Virginia’s Lynch Mob and Other Works” (2019, Montclair Art Museum), and “30 Americans” (2019-20, The Barnes Foundation). Working with Penn students, Shaw has overseen curatorial projects with contemporary artists, including Roger Toledo at the Arthur Ross Gallery; and Glenn Ligon, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Heather Hart, Steve Reich, Rachelle Mozman, and Akosua Adoma Owusu at Penn’s Institute of Contemporary Art.

Members of the Graduate Group who work on modern and contemporary art include Annette Fierro (modern and contemporary European architecture), Catriona McLeod (word and image, modern German cultural and aesthetic theory), Robert St. George (American vernacular architecture and material culture), and Liliane Weissberg (critical theory, Frankfurt School, photography).