Today, after a successful campaign led by the Association of Art Historians, it was announced that a new exam board, Pearson, will develop a new A-level in the History of Art for teaching from September 2017.
When it was announced that the History of Art A-level was to be discontinued, Art UK joined the thousands of voices telling the world #WhyArtHistoryMatters. We heard from lecturers, heads of department and directors who all told us what they’d gained from studying art history, and why it mattered that the opportunity to do so was being taken away from young people. At Art UK, our ethos is that art should be accessible and open to the whole nation, and taking away the opportunity to study art at A-level was depriving young people of the opportunity to learn about a part of their cultural heritage.
For some people, studying the History of Art will be the gateway to a lifelong love of the subject, and they may go on to be the future directors and curators of some of the UK’s amazing arts institutions. For others, it will simply be a chance to study a subject they might never have felt able to access otherwise, a way into talking about new ideas and combining the study of art with literature, politics and science. As the artist Jeremy Deller says, 'Art history is the study of power, politics, identity and humanity, it makes perfect sense to keep the exam.'
People all across the arts sector have reacted with relief and joy to hear the news – including Charles Saumarez Smith, the Chief Executive of the Royal Academy: 'On behalf of the Royal Academy of Arts and the Royal Academicians, we are delighted that the art history A-Level exam has been saved. Art history teaches rigorous analytical skills and requires students to engage not only with art but with history, literature, politics, languages and the sciences. In a culture dominated by the visual, there is a powerful argument that we need such skills more than ever.'
Art UK is similarly delighted that the History of Art A-level is back on the syllabus.