3min Writing Tips: Writing About Art

3min Writing Tips: Writing About Art

Rachel ReesT: What kind of art writing do you do?

R: My training has been a combination of academic and journalistic writing and so my writing has developed into a synthesis of the two. Academic writing has provided me with a solid foundational knowledge of art history and top level writing standards. Journalistic writing taught me how to write for an information-driven audience who tend to be less fussed with academic protocol. Combining the two, I share art with a wider demographic.

T: What is important to you when writing about art?

R: Audience. Ask yourself, who is your reader? A newspaper or magazine review should take the time to equip casual readers with art historical essentials before delving deeper into the article's content. For example, a review of an exhibition on German Expressionism should aim to hash out the basics of the movement before going further into the politics of the review itself. Same goes for art historical textbooks whose role it is to provide an introductory glimpse and educational experience to the reader. In contrast, when writing for the academic community, or an art savvy reader, one may safely assume existing knowledge on the subject.

T: What challenges have you overcome and how?

R: Art concepts can be grandiose and unreachable. I work hard to take lofty ideas and make them accessible, so as to best share them with any audience. I overcome this challenge with balance: I make sure to retain the casual reader's interest without overcomplicating my text. Then I check to see I haven't oversimplified, thereby keeping it rigorous for the aficionados.

T: What tips on writing about art?

R: First, what are you trying to say? Second, who are you trying to express it to? Audience is key. Avoid sweeping generalisations. The best bit of advice anyone ever gave me is this: show, don't tell. To say the exhibit was the most provocative or dreadful you've ever seen means nothing if you cannot simultaneously show what made it that way. Take the time to narrate what you saw. Then describe how and why that piece or experience embodies your point of view. It isn't easy to transfer a visual form to written, but to keep the 'show' factor in mind as the end goal is helpful.

T: What advice might you give to early career art writers?

R: The more art you see and the more art publications you read, the more you'll form an educated opinion. This will also help you to be better able to write from a sound base of knowledge that takes into account art publication styles. To understand how The Burlington Magazine is tailored differently to its readers than The New York Times will make you be more aware to how art writing can be adapted to various audiences.

T: What is your favourite part of writing about art?

R: Art is a shared experience. Using words to create a reaction, to represent a work and illicit an emotional reaction from your reader is almost as much fun as sharing a work in person.

Rachel Rees's writing has been published in Women's Wear Daily, The Los Angeles Times and in Christie's Auction House sale catalogues. She currently resides in New York City and works in Christie's Museum Services Department.

Art Writing art
journalist journalism art history Rachel Rees Christies Christie's Auction House Tamar Levi
Academic Writing
3min Writing Tips

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Alaskan raised, Cornish-Jewish, Belgium-based author and illustrator Tamar Levi has spent her life triangulated between desk, bookshelf and easel.Beginning by writing and illustrating whilst studying in London and Cambridge, Tamar also consulted for a leading multinational company. She's now come full circle, back to where she belongs, writing and illustrating again.


Send me your message using Contact form. Alternatively you can email me on tamarmagan[at]gmail.com.