Parsons Paris

  • Parsons offers the Master of Arts in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies in collaboration with the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and other leading cultural institutions. The degree is awarded for completion of 42 credits of coursework and a master's examination or a thesis. In order to sit for a master's examination or write a thesis, students must pass a proficiency exam in French. A maximum of six credits of graduate-level coursework can be transferred from another institution. Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and fulfill all requirements in a timely manner.

    For a complete listing of courses and course descriptions, visit the university course catalog.

    First Year / Fall
    APHT 5001 Survey of Decorative Arts 1 3 -
    APHT 5000 Proseminar 3 -
    APHT 5126 Elective: Curatorial Project 3 -
    3 -
    Total Credits 12
    First Year / Spring
    APHT 5002 Survey of Decorative Arts 2 - 3
    - 9
    Second Year / Fall
    APHT 5901 Independent Study: Thesis 1 3 -
    6 -
    Or Electives (if taking master’s exam) 9 -
    Second Year / Spring
    APHT 5902 Independent Study: Thesis 2 - 3
    - 6
    Or, APHT 5903 Independent Study: Master’s Exam - 3
    - 6
    Total Credits 42

    Required Courses

    First Semester
    Proseminar equips students with the skills required for scholarship in the history of decorative arts. Class discussions introduce a range of methodologies and critical approaches. Exercises train students in essential tasks such as conducting formal analyses, writing catalog entries, and making visual presentations. This writing-intensive course stresses the mechanics of expository writing through projects that require students to conduct research. Each student selects one work from the Cooper-Hewitt collection to study throughout the semester.

    Survey of Decorative Arts I provides an overview of European decorative arts from the 15th through the 18th century, with a focus on Italy, France, and England. Discussions address the style, function, and meaning of the decorative arts in both ceremonies and daily life. Drawing on interdisciplinary readings, the class considers objects and ornament within their cultural, political, and social contexts. As the semester progresses, students explore the way the transmission of style, the migration of craftsmen, and the availability of new materials and techniques gave rise to an international vocabulary of design.

    Second Semester
    Survey of Decorative Arts II examines the decorative arts from the 19th century to the present. Sessions on the 19th century consider neoclassicism, revival styles, the Aesthetic movement, the Arts and Crafts movement, and art nouveau within the broader history of the period. Individual craftsmen, firms, and important style makers and commentators on the decorative arts are discussed, as is the effect of industrialization on design and objects. Sessions on the 20th and 21st centuries address modernism and industrial design. Topics include the Wiener Werkstätte, Bauhaus, art moderne, "good design," and postmodernism.


    Transdisciplinary Approaches in History and Theory of Arts, Decorative Arts, and Design
    Students can elect to take a suite of courses in the History and Theory of Arts, Design, and Decorative Arts. These explore themes in visual and material culture and critical theory of culture, with a focus on the French and Parisian sphere. The curriculum is enriched by its connection to the collections of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

    Curatorial Studies and Practices
    A sequence of three courses on various aspects of curating is also offered: History of Collections and Museums (considered through the many museums and collections of Paris), Curating Immaterial Objects (in collaboration with the AMT program of Parsons Paris), and Displaying Sartorial Objects (in collaboration with the Fashion program at Parsons Paris).