Master Fine Art

Tweejarige opleiding in het Engels

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The Piet Zwart Institute's English-taught two-year Fine Art programme is based on an understanding of contemporary art as embedded within a larger field of cultural, social and political practices.

Our English-taught two-year master degree programme provides an international platform in which artists can develop their practice through independent studio work as well as a lively dialogue with artists, curators and theorists from a diversity of disciplines: art, theatre, literature, philosophy, film and others.

Students receive very strong individual tutorial support with weekly studio visits by both regular staff and guests. Furthermore, we offer a challenging programme of annually changing thematic projects, exhibitions, seminars, excursions and public lectures that provide a broad framework for the exploration of issues relevant to contemporary culture and society. The small size of the programme (20-25 students) makes for intensive and focused discussions and allows for close interactions between the course director, faculty members, guests and students, creating a very special community around the Piet Zwart Insitute.

Our faculty and guests are practitioners in contemporary art and culture with a very active professional practice.

Piet Zwart Institute

This programme is offered by Piet Zwart Institute.

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Course elements

Core aspects of artistic practice

During the first four trimesters of your studies at Piet Zwart institute's Fine Art course, you will engage in three main course elements: Practice & Research, Analysis of Practice and Issues in Art & Theory. Each element focuses on a core aspect of artistic practice. These three aspects of artistic practice come together in the last two trimesters in your Final Project.

1. Practice & Research

Involving independent work

Your independent work is your main focus and point of reference throughout the course. Practice & Research evolves around the enhancement of your own work. Participants develop a body of work focused upon questions, ideas, or themes they select and using media and working methods they find most appropriate to their practice. Research and work are self-directed and undertaken independently, and will take forms and directions that are specific to each participant. It may involve experimentation, technical training, looking at art works by others, reading literature, field research, the production of work and the realisation of public presentations, or any other kind of activity relevant to your practice and your study needs.

Work will often be undertaken individually, but may also involve collaboration with others. It may take place in your studio at PZI or the technical workshops of the academy, but also at any other site or platform appropriate to your work.

The emphasis is on experimentation and exploration of processes, materials and ideas. Work in progress is discussed in individual tutorials, both to provide feedback and to clarify aims and intentions, formulate questions and define areas for further research, analyse processes and outcomes, and develop a critical framework and vocabulary in relation to your own practice.
Practice & Research involves ca 70% of your time during your studies (including the Final Project).


Direct feedback on your work and research is given in individual tutorials, which are tailored to focus on your specific interests and needs. Participants sign up for tutorials themselves, and can thus steer the planning and frequency of their tutorials. On average, participants have five one-hour tutorials per month. However, in practice you may decide to solicit a lot of feedback during one month, and to focus on quiet research and production during another. It is expected that participants meet with a number of tutors every term and have met with each core tutor at least once per year.
A team of eight artists and theorists are core tutors; they will conduct studio visits throughout the year, allowing for a continuing dialogue. In addition to the regular team, both students and staff can make proposals for guest tutors.

Technical training

Technical training is provided via the technical workshops of the Willem de Kooning Academy. Since PZI participants have different previous training and needs and employ different media, technical training is mainly conducted through individual instruction and advice, focused on the concrete work you are developing. You are therefore expected to be able to self-organise and to take the initiative to get the support and training you need for your work via the academy workshops and technical advisors.
Special instruction classes in Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, AVID, html and other relevant programmes are also organised for small groups of students.
In some cases you may need technical support or a type of working space that is not available via the Academy; in such a case we can help you look for possibilities offered by other professional studios in Rotterdam.

2. Analysis of Practice

Involving group critiques

An ongoing series of group critiques provide a forum for participants to reflect together on each others' work and analyze practice.
The presenting participant sets the agenda for his or her group critique. S/he prepares a presentation of work (in progress), and a written statement, evaluating the artistic decisions that informed their work, and identifying questions, issues or concerns in relation to their work for joint discussion.
By preparing for your group critique, you will develop appropriate ways of presenting and framing work and ideas in progress to peers. You will learn to identify artistic questions, ideas and themes relevant to your work, and to articulate them in writing. Listening to your peers discussing your work, in relation to your stated artistic questions and intentions, will provide an opportunity to test and reflect on the readings your work generates.
By engaging in discussions of the work of others, you will also develop a critical vocabulary and tools to analyse and interrogate work. Discussing the work of peers against their stated intentions and questions is an exercise in reading art works, thinking out loud, and speculating on different perspectives, approaches and solutions.

Group critiques take place every three to four weeks. Each participant presents his or her work for a group discussion twice per year. The discussions are supported and moderated by a tutor and a fellow-participant.
Since the group critiques are the main forum for participants to test and discuss their work with each other, they are continued throughout the two years of study. This also allows first and second year students to have group critiques together. The critiques will take up ca 7% of your time throughout your studies.

3. Issues in Art & Theory

Conducted through an annually changing programme of thematic projects, seminars and lectures

A series of thematic projects allows participants to engage critically with issues in contemporary art and theory. Issues in contemporary art and theory are never clear-cut and simple, nor are they stable. Terms and approaches have a different meaning and relevance in different contexts, and are continuously developed and utilised, negotiated and debated, reconsidered and reinvested. Rather than covering a fixed set of themes and references, we therefore address the Issues in Art & Theory module through an annually changing programme of thematic projects. This allows us to engage flexibly and (self-)critically with a range of relevant issues, and to work with challenging artists, curators, critics and theorists.
The thematic projects offer a forum for the exploration of artistic approaches and theoretical concepts, referring back to the critical frameworks from which they have emerged, but also looking at their potential, relevancy and implications in the present. The projects deliberately connect theory and practice, and focus on themes and topics that cut into and across different practices and discourses (visual art practice, related artistic practices, social practices, exhibition making, art criticism, cultural theory, philosophy, politics, etcetera).

Descriptions of current and past thematic projects, seminars and lectures can be found in the 'current programme' and the 'programme archive' sections of this site. Recurring fields of interest have been amongst others the relation between public and private space; the urban environment and social commentary; and strategies of presentation and dissemination.
Through your own engagement with particular thematic projects you will develop a critical framework and vocabulary to reflect on issues in art and theories, as well as on specific artworks and artistic approaches, and to consider your own work and working methods within this expanded context.
Thematic projects may take the form of a seminar, a lecture series, or a workshop involving a combination of seminars, lectures and self-directed research. Project work will often include reading and discussing texts, analysis of art works and artistic approaches, joint exhibition visits and excursions, work on location, and (public) presentations.

Making a choice of projects

You are expected to participate in four thematic projects, selected from the annual programme, in the course of your studies. You are free to do more, and receive extra credits for extra projects. Before you embark on your graduation project, you should have completed three of the thematic projects.
Normally a thematic project lasts one trimester. Joint project activities may be organised in weekly meetings or in intensive workshops, depending on the project. Each thematic project may account for one or two days of work per week, including group meetings in seminars, lectures and joint exhibition visits, reading texts, undertaking self-directed research and preparing presentations. Lecture programmes are less intense than projects in workshop format.
The thematic projects will take ca. 30% of your time during your studies.

4. Final project

A critical framework

The last two trimesters of the course are reserved for an independent Final Project. The Final Project enables you to realise a coherent and imaginative body of work and a public presentation, as well as to explore ideas, methods, artistic approaches and theoretical references. The project may involve subjects, methods, references, media and forms of presentation and dissemination relevant to your practice.

You prepare for your Final Project by writing a Final Project Proposal in the fourth trimester of your studies. In the process of writing a research proposal, you will analyse the questions and methods running through the work you have realised so far, formulate an artistic question and approach for further research. On top of this, you will establish a critical framework relevant to your practice.

The Final Project involves self-directed work and study, critically supported by individual tutorials as well as joint seminars and group critiques. A writing tutor will give specific individual support to help you develop your skills and voice in critical writing.

Students also receive financial support for the production of work and the realisation of a public presentation. Participants are encouraged to search for a form of presentation that is specific to their work. Over the past years, many final projects have resulted in group exhibitions in TENT., centre for visual art in Rotterdam, but participants have also shown their work in other cultural settings, such as the theatre, the cinema or public space, or distributed work in printed or online forms.

Public events

Related to the curriculum

Our faculty and guests are practitioners in contemporary art and culture with a very active professional practice. In addition to our curriculum, taught by our core faculty and invited project leaders, we organise an ongoing public event series based on issues related to the curriculum, but reaching beyond the framework of the seminars. The public events are an important resource for students, tutors and guests, serving as bridge to the city and building a community around areas of interests.

Research Opportunities

PZI programmes

The Piet Zwart Institutes includes the two research programmes:

  • Communication in a Digital Age - investigates the future shape of communication design and artistic professions in a time of massive social, economic and technological changes of media, communication culture and the production and distribution of so-called creative work.
  • Cultural Diversity - reflects changes of contemporary art and design through migration, post-colonial relations and transnational visual cultures, with a focus on the city of Rotterdam and its population of currently 48% immigrants.

As a master student at the Piet Zwart Institute, you can attend all conferences, lectures and workshops organised by the two research programmes, have guest lecturers as personal tutors and contribute your own projects to its published research.

Waar ga je studeren?

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Blaak 10
3011 TA Rotterdam

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Please contact:

Piet Zwart Institute
+ 31 (0)10 794 4716