While the title of this piece is mostly joking, Art History is often viewed as a major that is chosen by students who do not have to worry about career choice due to socio-economic privilege (hence the idea of going to a cocktail party and talking about the importance of the latest Albrecht Dürer findings in Berlin.) I will argue, as many would, that art history is not just for the wealthy elite, but important for anyone who wants to understand the importance of not only art work, but previous generations interpretations of the present (or to us, the past) and how it relates to how what our current society views as art.
Although I am not an art history major myself, the courses I have taken on architectural history, planning history, Japanese scroll art, and basic Western art have taught me new perspectives on how to not only view art, but also current events and other facets of everyday life. So for those of you who are keen on learning more about art history and what skills you can pick up from it, you have found the right article.
What is Art History?
According to the Princeton Review, art history majors are considered “part historian, part cultural critic.” The major trains students to help define artwork through its historical context. From the artwork, whether it be paintings, sculptures, etc., art history majors study and examine each layer of the piece of art: social, historical, cultural, political, and personal elements. From these artworks, art history majors are able to develop critical analysis, reading, and writing skills.
What can I do with an Art History major?
Just as an major, especially social science and humanities majors, art history does not restrict you to one set of career paths to take. Adapted from About.com, below are several career paths most related to your major that you can take:
- Antique dealer
- Art law and law enforcement (think FBI’s forgery team)
- Art Conservation and Restoration
- Museum facilities operations
- Working for an Auction House
- Art investment consultant
- Gallery curator
Where to Go for Art History?
Like almost every other undergraduate major, there is no defining “best” art history program for undergraduate students. It greatly varies on what kind of environment (large vs small classroom, seminar vs lecture style classes, specific subject area, etc.) Here are a couple undergraduate programs to start your search with:
- Brown University – Art History
- Bryn Mawr College – Art History
- Johns Hopkins University – Art History
- New York University (NYU) – Art History
- Northwestern University – Art History
- Williams College – Art History