Modern/Contemporary Art

Jinny Yu, Non-Painting Painting, oil on aluminum,
61 x 61 x 30 cm, 2012, courtesy of the artist

Graduate study in the fields of modern and contemporary art and visual culture is especially strong at the University of Toronto with over ten full-time faculty members dedicated to these areas. From the 18th century to the present and with an encompassing range of historical and theoretical emphases, our faculty are at the forefront of research and teaching across the full gamut of media. As befits its home in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, the Department offers unparalleled opportunities for the advanced study of modern and contemporary art and visual culture of North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. This extraordinary diversity yields unusual strength in several coherent areas of inquiry, affording students the opportunity to fashion highly original research trajectories both within and across traditional geographical and chronological boundaries.

The core faculty are complemented by extensive intellectual resources throughout the University, including one of the top research libraries in North America. The University houses highly-regarded programmes in virtually every field of humanistic inquiry, ensuring graduate students access to an astonishing array of approaches to the study of modern culture. The bustling metropolis of Toronto, with its world-class museums and dynamic contemporary art scene, provides an ideal setting in which to investigate the visual arts of the past two centuries, and to take the pulse of the globalised conditions of current aesthetic production.

Areas of particular strength

  • Art/science interfaces
  • Conceptual art
  • History of photography
  • Image/Text studies
  • Landscape theory and practice
  • Modern and contemporary non-Western art and visual culture
  • Museum practices
  • Queer studies
  • Queer theory
  • Relational aesthetics


  • Jordan Bear: 19th-century European art and visual culture; history and theory of photography; visual sociology; histories of exhibition and display; theories of visual communication in science.
  • Mark A. Cheetham: 18th-century Europe; art theory and visual culture; modern art in the USA and Europe; contemporary art; historical and contemporary art in Canada.
  • Joseph L. Clarke: modern architecture and urbanism; German romanticism; sound studies; aesthetic models of spatial experience.
  • Yi Gu: modern Chinese art and cultural history; cultural translation, knowledge formation, replication, and display techniques; the competing claims of media to truth; cultural production under socialist and post-socialist condition.
  • Elizabeth Harney: modern art in the USA and Europe; historical, modern, and contemporary art of Africa and Diaspora; contemporary art; the global contemporary; art theory; museum practices.
  • Kajri Jain: modern and contemporary Indian art, visual culture, and cinema; art theory; art and religion; postcolonial theory; material culture.
  • Louis Kaplan: history and theory of photography and new media; twentieth century Euro-American art history and visual culture; media culture; humour in art and culture; Jewish studies and visual culture.
  • Elizabeth Legge: Dada, surrealism, and contemporary Canadian and British art; relationship of language and image; instrumental uses of religious, racial, and national stereotypes; rhetorics in art.
  • Mikinaak Migwans: Indigenous art; Indigenous natural fiber weaving of the Great Lakes;
  • John Paul Ricco: critical theory; modern and contemporary art; queer theory; performance studies.
  • Alison Syme: 19th- and early 20th-century art and visual culture in Britain, France, and the US; history of science; queer theory; feminism; psychoanalysis; fin-de-siècle studies.

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