Art History and Archaeology, PhD

Program Category: PhD Programs
Chair: Zainab Bahrani
Director of Graduate Studies: Francesco de Angelis
Degree Programs: Full-Time: MA, MPhil, PhD

The Department of Art History and Archaeology offers programs of instruction in the history, theory, and criticism of art and archaeology. These programs are intended to prepare students for careers in scholarship and teaching and in curatorial work and museum administration as well as for independent research and critical writing. The department offers one of the richest graduate programs in the discipline, and students are encouraged to take advantage of its variety of subjects and approaches.

The PhD program includes the following areas of study:

  • Ancient Art and Archaeology
    • Greek
    • Roman
    • West Asian (Near Eastern)
  • Art and Architecture of Africa and the African Diaspora
  • Art and Architecture of the Americas until 1550 (“Pre-Columbian”)
  • Arts and Architecture of the Lands of Islam
  • East Asian Art and Archaeology
  • History of Architecture
    • Ancient Architecture
    • Early Christian, Byzantine, and Western Medieval Architecture
    • Renaissance and Baroque Architecture
    • Europe 1700-1800
    • U.S. American Architecture to 1945
    • 20th and 21st-Century Architecture (including American Architecture, post 1945)
  • History of Western Art
    • Early Christian, Byzantine, and Western Medieval Art
    • Renaissance and Baroque Art
    • Europe 1700-1800
    • U.S. American Art to 1945
    • 20th and 21st-Century Art (including American Art, post-1945)
  • Native North American Art
  • South Asian Art

The Department of Art History and Archaeology is a member of the Doctoral Program Subcommittee on Classical Studies and the Interdepartmental Committee on Medieval and Renaissance Studies and participates in the Program in Historic Preservation in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Students in the PhD program earn the MA and MPhil degrees en route to the doctorate. The first year of coursework culminates in the master's paper and the award of the MA degree. The next two years consist of coursework, teaching, and curatorial opportunities, and preparation for the MPhil oral examination, which is taken by the end of the third year. After being awarded the MPhil degree, students of merit may be appointed as Teaching Fellows to teach in the undergraduate Core Curriculum, which involves a highly organized training program and unusual independence as teachers in a small seminar setting. Fellowships are awarded in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of scholarly success. Teaching and research experience are considered an important aspect of doctoral students' training. Thus, graduate fellowships include teaching and research apprenticeship. Students who have passed their MPhil examination and successfully defended their dissertation proposal in the third or fourth year of study are eligible for a Dissertation Fellowship and can begin research on the dissertation.


The resources of the department extend beyond the classroom: the Avery Architecture and Fine Arts Library, the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, the Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, and the many museums and art galleries of New York offer an incomparable array of world art on permanent and temporary exhibition. The Media Center for Art History provides learning opportunities for graduate students in the area of new imaging and information technologies. More information is available on the department's website.

Other Resources for Study

Aside from the regular courses, a varied program of individual lectures and colloquia by distinguished visitors is offered at frequent intervals. In addition, the department hosts various fora that bring together faculty and graduate students in the New York area. Please see the department's website for information about the Bettman Lecture Series, the Robert Branner Forum for Medieval Art and Architecture, the Howard Hibbard Forum for Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture, and the Collins/Kaufmann Forum for Modern Architectural History. The Graduate Student Colloquium, founded and organized by students in the department, provides an informal forum in which students and faculty can present their various projects. Work in Progress, a series similarly founded and organized by graduate students, extends its reach to the faculty and students in Columbia University's Visual Arts Program.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, in existence since 1986, has presented many widely noted exhibitions. Most exhibits are planned and curated by faculty and graduate students. Seminars devoted to preparing exhibitions and their accompanying catalogues are occasionally offered.

In addition to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, the many collections and libraries of New York City provide opportunities for further study and research. Students have free access to most of these. In several, such as the Metropolitan Museum, the Frick Collection, the Museum of Modern Art, and the New-York Historical Society, special facilities are available for students. Periodically, graduate seminars are taught by museum curators and meet at the museums. The galleries of art dealers offer an ever-changing series of exhibitions in which the works of the most recent artists, as well as of the more established ones, can be seen. Various private collections in New York, through the courtesy of their owners, are often made accessible to students under the guidance of their instructors. Visits to museums and collections form part of the assigned work in many of the courses. Trips are occasionally made to out-of-town museums. The department also offers opportunities to study at Reid Hall in Paris and Casa Muraro in Venice.

Certificate in Comparative Literature and Society

The Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS) awards a certificate in Comparative Literature and Society. For more information, see the ICLS website.

Special Admissions Requirements: 

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, a writing sample (a course paper, term paper, etc.), a personal statement, and three letters of evaluation from academic sources.

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

For more information, refer to our Admissions Information and Frequently Asked Questions pages.


Generally, applicants are expected to have taken a minimum of four undergraduate courses in art history, archaeology, or other fields related to art history. Reading knowledge of one or two foreign languages is recommended, since demonstration of proficiency in at least one language is required during the first year of study. All applicants should submit a sample of critical or scholarly writing. Interviews might be required as part of the PhD application process. However, applicants are encouraged to consult, and possibly meet, with a faculty member in the intended field of specialization prior to February 1. Applicants are advised to visit the department’s website or to contact the department for information about faculty specialties and availability, as well as for general information about the graduate program.

The department grants advanced standing for previously completed coursework according to GSAS guidelines.

*GSAS will accept up to four recommendations, regardless of the number required by your program of interest. However, to be eligible for admission at GSAS, at least TWO letters must be submitted by academic recommenders.