Art History and Theory


Certificate in Arts
Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts with Honours
Graduate Diploma in Arts 
Postgraduate Certificate in Arts
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts
Postgraduate Diploma in Art Curatorship
Master of Arts 
Doctor of Philosophy

Bachelor of Commerce (minor only)

Art exhibition


We are constantly surrounded by objects and images: these things have meanings, and affect our experiences. Art History and Theory helps you to find messages encoded within the visual world, and to think about the effects they have in and on society. In our courses, we study a range of artworks and objects – including paintings, moving images, crafts, and everyday things – and these provide insights into a variety of places, histories, and cultures.

The ‘visual literacy’ Art History and Theory courses promote is an extremely useful skill – highly applicable to many other subjects of study, and to a range of different career paths. Studying Art History and Theory also offers students the chance to develop expertise in how to look at things in detail, and to get the most out of what can be seen.

Why study Art History and Theory at UC?

At UC we take a particularly broad view of Art History and Theory as a subject; this is reflected in the variety of objects we look at and the ways we discuss them. We also consider the mechanics of the art world, as practices such as collecting, display, patronage, art education, art criticism, and community engagement all affect how we understand art and objects.

Our courses reflect the lecturers' specialisms, which include contemporary art, East Asian art, and European art and material culture. All our lecturers cultivate research interests that extend beyond Art History and Theory and connect to other disciplines, ideas and fields such as literature, cultural studies, aesthetics, and the history and philosophy of science. This interdisciplinary aspect is woven into a number of Art History and Theory courses at UC.

Our first-year students come from a variety of backgrounds, and previous study of Art History and Theory at high school is not a requirement. More important is your interest, commitment and enthusiasm for the subject.


See a list of all Art History and Theory courses

100-level courses

Students intending to major in Art History and Theory require at least 30 points at 100-level. Art History and Theory courses are also an integral part of the Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Students who are planning to advance to postgraduate study in Art History and Theory should consider including language courses appropriate to their intended area of study in their degree.

See also Māori and Indigenous Studies.

200-level and beyond

Several areas of specialisation are available beyond first year. Possible pathways include modern and contemporary art, East Asian art, eighteenth and nineteenth century European art, Western art, architecture and art theory. 

The Postgraduate Diploma in Art Curatorship provides opportunities for students with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Art History and Theory and related disciplines to specialise in a mix of theoretical and applied courses designed to prepare students to work in the art gallery and museum sector.

Career opportunities

Graduates from Art History and Theory often go on to work in museums, galleries, auction houses, educational institutions, libraries and heritage conservation.

However, many seek careers beyond the art and heritage world, and professional possibilities are diverse (for example, in industries such as publishing, journalism, information services, marketing, tourism, and more).

Careers across a range of sectors offer ample opportunities for our graduates to draw on skillsets developed by studying Art History and Theory, such as aesthetic awareness, attention to visual cues and sources, developed analytical and research skills, and strong verbal and written communication.

Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Art History and Art Theory.

More information

School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Phone +64 3 364 2176

Art History and Theory programme
5th Floor, Karl Popper Building

Postal address
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
New Zealand
Lauren Buckeridge

Lauren Buckeridge

'Classics covers a wide range of time, people, languages, and locations...'

Rata Holtslag

Rata Holtslag

'The opportunity to work within the arts field was incredibly valuable...'