Fine Arts

Study Fine Arts in Auckland at Whitecliffe, New Zealand's leading arts and design school.

Whitecliffe Fine Arts graduates create compelling and powerful visual expressions of their ideas. By understanding and operating within the ever-expanding field of visual art, they learn to adapt quickly, think critically, and take a lead in shaping contemporary culture.


Programme Overview

The development of a sustainable art practice through a variety of creative media is the cornerstone of Fine Arts study at Whitecliffe. Students explore traditional and contemporary materials, techniques and approaches in relation to their projects. Each student's understanding of theoretical and visual issues is developed and challenged in order to help them position their work in relation to relevant national and international art.

Fine Arts students develop skills and experience with painting, printmaking, photography, video, digital media and spatial installation. From entering the Fine Arts major in Semester Two of Year One, students respond to set assignments which develop formal and conceptual skills while leaving latitude for individual thematic interpretation. As students progress they are encouraged to reflect upon the strengths of their work and develop their own creative voice. This process enables them to have an increasing hand in the development of their own programmes of study while remaining under the close supervision of lecturers.

Students majoring in Fine Arts are mainly situated St Georges Bay Road Studios and are assigned their own studio facilities with access seven days a week.

In addition to receiving regular feedback on their work throughout the course (sometimes from external sources), students must stage assessment exhibitions within their studios at the end of each semester. These exhibitions are a formal assessment requirement that also provides an opportunity for students to showcase their work. It is both an intensely testing and rewarding experience essential for emerging artists.


Click on the image to view or download the  BFA FINE ARTS prospectus


View work by Fine Arts students


at the bottom of this page.


For a personal tour or for any queries

Open Day 2019

Click on the image to download and print the Fine Arts Open Day flyer



The Pearce Gallery provides an excellent site for students, faculty and visiting artists to exhibit. Gallery exhibitions expose students to the work of professional contemporary artists and enhance the relationship between Whitecliffe students, faculty and the contemporary arts community. An increasing number of students are exploring additional exhibition initiatives involving commercial galleries, shops, warehouses and billboards.

Life After Fine Arts

Graduates have taken up careers as full-time practising artists, opened their own galleries and worked within the arts industry. Our course is structured to produce BFA students with a high degree of flexibility and a broad range of skills, setting them up to be aware of their place in the art world. A number of graduates lecture at high schools and tertiary institutions. Whitecliffe BFA graduates have also achieved a high level of success in gaining places in MFA programmes nationally and internationally. Refer to page 7 of the prospectus for further details.



Fine Arts Year One

Semester One in Year One for Fine Arts students includes a combination of both general arts and design with specialist Fine Art courses. The programme covers practical and theoretical skills and knowledge where students develop core skills in design, drawing, materials and processes, together with critical and contextual studies.

Study includes supervised studio practice, lectures, tutorials and self-directed learning. Visual Theory, Cultural Studies, and Modern Art and Design History introduce the vocabulary of art history and contemporary theory in support of practical courses and fine art studio practice. Students will be taught both historical models and contemporary content specific to Fine Arts.

The Semester One programme is specifically intended to best prepare students for one of the BFA specialist areas. Students are guided through structured projects in the first semester and examine the process of drawing, art making and design within the compulsory courses: 5101 Drawing, 5102 Design, 5103 Materials & Processes, before starting their specialism in the second semester. Students also participate in intensive week-long workshops that enable them to collaborate in teams and/or work independently to produce collective creative outcomes. Workshop projects may include co-producing a graphic novel, a short film/video, tikanga Māori and harakeke weaving techniques.

Critical and Contextual Studies

A fully integrated programme of critical and contextual studies supports all studio specialisms. Visual Theory initiates students into the language of critical discourse and critique. Students learn to analyse, critique, discuss, write and conduct research related to the practice of art and design. Cultural Studies and Modern Art and Design History assist students in positioning their art and design practice within a broader cultural and historical context.

Year One Fine Art courses

Students wishing to specialise in Fine Arts will be required to complete 5200 Studio Practice: Fine Arts in the second semester. This course is considered fundamental to contemporary art practice and will include a balance of contemporary and traditional skills knowledge and research practice. For example, the course content may include the following:

•    principles and practices in the production of two and three dimensional art

•    exploration of conceptual and formal visual elements

•    methods, materials and processes

•    issues in Contemporary Art: drawing, painting, printmaking, video, sculpture and installation art

•    genre and the critical evaluation of work within a cultural and contextual framework.

Year One Supplementary Electives

Additional to the specialist courses, students have an opportunity to select from a range of elective courses which enable the  Year One student to test out other specialist areas, before firming up their choice of major. Elective courses may include the following:

•    5202    Community Engagement

•    5203    Painting

•    5302    Screen printing

•    5402    Graphic Print Processes

•    5403    Mapping for Graphic Design

•    5404    Publication Design

•    5502    Reading the Photographic Image

•    5503    Intermedia

•    5504    Digital Imaging



Fine Arts Year Two

Year Two Fine Arts students develop a broad learning base utilising a variety of media. In Semester One, students participate in a series of set assignments, special topics and workshops that assist them to evaluate complex issues and discuss critical frameworks relevant to contemporary art practice. In Semester Two, students focus on the transition from working with set assignments to working on extended studio-based visual and theoretical research. Intensive individual supervision from the faculty supports their creative, practical and contextual development. At the end of each semester students stage formal assessment exhibitions within their studio spaces, which provide opportunities for showcasing work, resolving ideas and considering new directions. Individual studio spaces are provided and students have access seven days a week.

Entrepreneurship I enables Year Two students to apply their creative, practical and theoretical knowledge with an introduction to small business start-ups, marketing and public relations that lead to more integrated and substantiated studio research projects and prepare students for their careers beyond completing their degree.

Critical and Contextual Studies in Years Two and Three

In Year Two students undertake a one-semester course in Modern and Contemporary Art and Design Survey, that addresses contemporary theory and debates around the subject specialism of their choice. Year Three students extend on this learning in Issues in Contemporary Practice II and Entrepreneurship II which include the opportunity for applying knowledge in a work placement. This can involve either a placement within an appropriate sector of the art industry or the planning and execution of a professional public exhibition.

In addition, students select from a range of theory elective courses that are offered within a suite of Year Two and Year Three courses. The courses include a variety of topics that strategically deepen students' contextual, theoretical and practice-based inquiries. 

Fine Arts Year Three

By undertaking a negotiated studio research project in Year Three, students will creatively engage in a largely self-directed course of study to produce practical work, which is evaluated within a critical framework. Year Three students accumulate a contextual portfolio, which contains photographic documentation of their studio work as it has developed throughout the year alongside an extended artist statement.

By the end of Year Three students will present a professional, well developed body of work that represents an original area of inquiry. This supports their final graduating exhibition. These exhibitions are well attended by industry professionals and are an important opportunity to showcase students’ work.

The focus on the development of a body of work allows students to graduate with momentum, to have confidence and to be an effective leader in, and contributor to, their chosen discipline and the wider art community.

Postgraduate Study: BFA (Hons) NZQF level 8

Whitecliffe BFA graduates are industry-ready at the end of their three-year degree.

Included in the suite of Whitecliffe post-graduate programmes, Whitecliffe offers an additional one year, stand-alone BFA Honours qualification, directly following on from the BFA degree, with places available by application only. Its purpose is to consolidate the learning and achievements of the BFA through the realisation of a sustained practice-based, studio-centred, research inquiry and to further prepare students for professional life as creative practitioners or for ongoing postgraduate study. Attainment of this qualification allows for a five-year pathway to Masters degree completion for those students interested in further academic study.



Applications for the February BFA intake close on 31 October of the previous year. (Late applications will be considered)


Read more student and graduate stories here

Hikalu Clarke

"I was drawn to Whitecliffe by the generous studio space provided to students but predominantly by the faculty of practicing artists, designers and thinkers.The Whitecliffe BFA helped me learn a critical language that I otherwise would have struggled to engage with and enabled me to develop my art practice."

Hikalu Clarke

Fine Arts


Daphne Simons

"There is a lot of creative freedom here. You really can pursue whatever you want, as long as you justify it. I can't say enough about the quality of the lecturers in Fine Arts. They have impressive artistic track records, and if you put the work in, they treat you as peers rather than students."

Daphne Simons

Fine Arts