Now accepting applications for fall 2015

Now accepting applications for fall 2015

School of Visual Arts (SVA)

Peter Pavlakis, MFA Art Criticism & Writing: About the Program (still), 2014. Video. Courtesy of SVA MFA Art Criticism and Writing.
February 2, 2015
Now accepting applications for fall 2015

School of Visual Arts (SVA) 
132 West 21 street
New York, NY

Generous departmental scholarships, as well as other forms of assistance, are available on a competitive basis.

Chair: David Levi Strauss

Apply online here.

If you have any questions, please contact the department: [email protected] / T +1 212 592 2408.


The Art Criticism & Writing program at the School of Visual Arts is one of the only graduate programs in the world that focuses specifically on criticism and art writing. This program is not involved in “discourse production” or the prevarications of curatorial rhetoric, but rather in the practice of criticism writ large, aspiring to literature. We put writing at the center of all our work here.

The practice of criticism involves making finer and finer distinctions among like things, but it is also a way to ask fundamental questions about art and life. The MFA program in Art Criticism & Writing is designed to give students a grounding in the philosophical and historical bases of art and criticism, to improve both their writing and their seeing, and to provide sources they can draw on for the rest of their lives.

Critics cannot afford to be specialists, so our curriculum is wide-ranging. In addition to the foundation seminar, Bases of Criticism I & II, taught by chair David Levi Strauss, three levels of writing practicums, and the thesis seminar, we offer an array of continually changing electives taught by prominent writers and critics.

We concentrate on the essay as form, as well as on shorter forms of review, and learn criticism by doing it. The thesis that students write at the end of their course of study is intended to be a substantial piece of criticism. We want students to come out of this program better prepared to write in the world, and with the connections they need to move forward.

From its inception, this program has also had a special emphasis on the history and future of the image. The critics of tomorrow must study images in all of their manifestations in order to better understand how we are subject to them.

In addition to our exceptional core faculty—including Debra Bricker Balken, Thomas Beard, Michael Brenson, Jennifer Krasinski, Claudia La Rocco, Ann Lauterbach, Dejan Lukic, Nancy Princenthal, Lucy Raven, Chuck Stein, and Lynne Tillman—we invite many writers, critics, philosophers, editors, artists, and art historians in each year to give lectures and to meet with our students individually and in small groups. Recent guests include Susan Buck-Morss, Sylvère Lotringer, Robert Storr, Avital Ronell, Holland Cotter, Michael Taussig, Boris Groys, Cuauhtémoc Medina, T. J. Clark, Peter Schjeldahl, Bill Berkson, Lucy Lippard, Amy Sillman, Linda Nochlin, and Dave Hickey.

In addition to the Art Criticism & Writing lecture series that has been going on for five years in the SVA Theatre on 23rd Street, a new, more intimate series of talks and discussions, Quijote Talks, has brought more artists and writers into our space on 21st Street in the past two years.

In January 2012 we moved into our newly built facilities (including a new library) on the 6th floor of 132 West 21st Street in Chelsea. It is obviously a big advantage to have such a program situated in the heart of New York City, amidst the greatest concentration of artists and art activity in the world. The connections made in the program between students and others working in the field are invaluable and long-lasting.

Our students produce an online journal of timely reviews of current exhibitions in New York City and other writings called Degree Critical, edited by Nancy Princenthal. Read Degree Critical on our website. Students also produce a periodical in print, Zephyr, and a graduate student conference each year.

To see sample programs, faculty bios, news, the Degree Critical online journal, recordings of our popular lecture series, and admissions procedures, click here.


MFA Art Criticism & Writing at SVA is now accepting applications for fall 2015

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School of Visual Arts (SVA)
February 2, 2015

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