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Sotheby's Institute of Art

Writing for the art World: Style and Substance

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Writing about art is based on a sustained practice of rigorous analysis when first encountering an art object and the subsequent composition of prose that articulates that specific artwork’s aesthetic, social, and historical value. Through a close study of art objects and exhibitions, and by reading exemplary texts, you will master the fundamental requirements for writing about art. The course explores writing structure, tone, and point-of-view, as well as the professional vocabulary used to intelligently describe and analyze contemporary art exhibitions and practices under the guidance of the instructor, and in an exchange with fellow students via a mid-course peer workshop. This course also allows you to practice art writing by generating and revising your writing weekly, constructing a body of prose that will lead to a final essay.

Please note this course is a writing workshop. Students should have a strong proficiency in the English language.

You’ll walk away with:

  • Knowledge of contemporary art writings that contribute to exhibitions, auctions, and public conversations about art.
  • The vocabulary and writing techniques applicable to a variety of spheres that require a written analysis of art.
  • A completed and revised review, which could be used to showcase your writing skills and further your career in the arts.

Sample Topics

Week 1: Introduction to Art Writing

  • Who Writes About Art, Why and How
  • The Building Blocks of Visual Writing

Week 2: The Essence of Successful Art Writing I: Tone and Structure

  • An Overview of Writings Generated by Galleries and Museums
  • Analysis of Museum Wall Texts
  • Review of What Press Releases Say and Why

Week 3: The Essence of Successful Art Writing II: Voice and Craft

  • Master Art Writers from Past and Present
  • Analyzing and Connecting with Your Subject Matter

Week 4: History and Biography

  • How to Professionally Convey Valuable, Biographical Information on Artists
  • Analyzing an Artist’s Individual Experiences and Their Social Context

Week Five: Getting to the Point

  • Focus on De Kooning: From a Formal Analysis of a Singular Work to an Exploration of the Artist
  • How De Kooning’s Work Is Reevaluated Over Time

Week Six: Seeing and Writing the World

  • Scholarly Writing for Exhibition Catalogues, Historical Books, etc
  • Formal Analysis, Artists’ Biographies, Critical Evaluation, Historic Research


MFA, Art Criticism and Writing, School of Visual Arts BA, Writing, Literature and the Arts in Context, Eugene Lang College Aimee Walleston is New York City-based essayist and editor, who has worked for magazines including W, Interview, Jane and The Last Magazine. She has contributed reviews, ess...
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