Art History

Journey through the history of art: explore masterpieces of global art and architecture from antiquity to the present day, using New York City as your campus.


This course will explore the major artists, movements, cultures, and ideas that have shaped the history of art. Through a combination of lectures and tours of New York City’s museums, students will engage in an intensive study of famous works of art, art historical movements, and global cultures. This unique course will guide students on a journey through some the most compelling examples of human creativity worldwide. Site visits and behind-the-scenes access will provide unique opportunities to explore art and art history in a way that only this city can offer. While this course covers some of the key artworks and movements discussed in the AP Art History curriculum, all students will benefit from the opportunity to see masterpieces in person in New York and to have their studies augmented by global perspectives.


Students will begin in the ancient world, using The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s vast collection to learn about the dynamic visual traditions of ancient cultures such as the Egyptians, Pre-Columbian societies, and early Chinese dynasties. Students will then explore Islamic art from the Met’s glittering collection of manuscripts, ceramics, jewelry, and textiles. A visit to The Cloisters will bring to life the soaring achievements of European Gothic architecture and art from the medieval period. Students will investigate the art of the Renaissance, Baroque, and Enlightenment through an exploration of newly renovated The Frick Collection, while also considering some of the great monuments concurrently created by people across the Atlantic in Central and South America. Students will also engage with art spanning the great continent of Asia concurrently with these movements, including Japanese woodblock prints from the Edo period and Chinese ceramics. The course will move through Impressionism and Modernism by looking at art in the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Culminating in a study of contemporary art, students will make their final stop at the Whitney Museum of American Art and get behind the scenes at famed New York City galleries, discovering how artists today tackle crucial topics such as race, geopolitics, gender, sexuality, disability, and class. Throughout the course, guest scholars will provide unique global insights into how art history has been shaped into the discipline it is today. Over the course of this dynamic global journey, students will gain a new framework for understanding different styles and concepts that have shaped the history of art.


Site Visits
Visits will include a combination of trips to major New York City art museums and architectural monuments, as well as art galleries and other places related to art history.


In the past, site visits have included:

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art & The Cloisters
  • The Museum of Modern Art
  • The Frick Collection
  • The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • The Whitney Museum of American Art
  • DIA: Beacon
  • Art galleries such as Gagosian and Hauser & Wirth


Guest Speakers
Students will hear firsthand from art historians, museum curators, and gallerists about the topics that shape our understanding of art history and contemporary art production.


In the past, guest speakers have included:

  • Museum curators
  • Art historians
  • Scholars
  • Gallerists
  • Artists


Please note: This information is subject to change at any time at the discretion of Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

Term Dates

Term dates and course availability depend heavily on instructors’ schedules.

  • Term 1 July 7 to July 19 Limited Space
  • Term 2 July 21 to August 2 Limited Space

All courses are open to rising 10th – 12th graders and graduating seniors. Explore the full summer schedule.

View Summer Schedule

Course Highlights

Summer Institute enables students to dive deep into a course of study, sharpening skills for their academic and professional careers. Each course is carefully designed to suit student interests and encourage intellectual curiosity.

  • 1

    Students will visit most of the major museums in New York City and learn firsthand about essential artists, architects, and art movements. There will also be time for guided explorations of the museum collections.

  • 2

    Students will hear from scholars, curators, and gallerists about the different cultural influences that determine which art, artists, and art movements are considered important and worthwhile at different points in time. How does art become art history?

  • 3

    The course is ideal for students who love art, architecture, and museums, and who want to expand their visual and cultural literacy. Students will learn how to identify different styles of art and architecture, to recognize the work of major artistic periods, and to understand the concepts associated with different art historical movements. Although this course assumes no prior art history knowledge, students with a prior art history background will benefit from faculty expertise and on-site study in New York’s top museums.

  • 4

    Students will examine firsthand great masterpieces from antiquity to the present in some of the world’s top museums through guided tours from museum staff and course leaders.

Summer Institute Faculty

Our instructors are award-winning Sotheby's Institute faculty, recognized thought leaders and professional experts in the art world. Each faculty member structures their course around real-time conversations defining their professions and helps students master the unique forces at play in the art world.

Summer Institute Faculty

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