How to Write about Contemporary Art

Williams, Gilda. 2014. How to Write about Contemporary Art. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 9780500291573 [Book]

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How to Write About Contemporary Art is the definitive guide to writing, engagingly about the art of our time. Invaluable for students, art professionals and other aspiring writers, the book first navigates readers through the key elements of style and content, from the aims and structure of a piece to its tone and language. Brimming with practical tips that range across the complete spectrum of art-writing, the second part of the book is organized around its specific forms, including academic essays; press releases and news articles; texts for auction and exhibition catalogues, gallery guides and wall labels; op-ed journalism and exhibition reviews; and writing for websites and blogs.

In counselling the reader against common pitfalls - such as jargon and poor structure - Gilda Williams points instead to the power of close looking and research, showing how to deploy language effectively; how to develop new ideas; and how to construct compelling texts. More than 30 illustrations throughout support closely analysed case studies of the best writing in Source Texts by 64 authors, including Claire Bishop, Thomas Crow, T.J. Demos, Okwui Enwezor, Dave Hickey, John Kelsey, Chris Kraus, Rosalind Krauss, Stuart Morgan, Hito Steyerl and Adam Szymczyk.

Supplemented by a general bibliography, advice on the use and misuse of grammar and tips on how to construct your own contemporary art library, How to Write About Contemporary Art is the essential handbook for all those interested in communicating about the art of today.

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‘Accessible, well-organized, and example-rich, How to Write ... provides a welcome refresher course … relevant to newer art writers whatever their particular concerns. […] Like good art, the book … inspires you.’
-- Louis Bury,

‘Williams’s methodology is flawless ... gives insight to the inner workings of very different industries: academia, auction houses and mainstream and professional press.' (frieze)

‘Will become a standard text for anyone studying or interested in critical writing and the very vexed subject of “writing about art”.’
-- Michael Bracewell, critic and novelist

‘Applies lessons in graceful prose to the field of art writing [...]
Williams excels ... when giving nuts-and-bolts advice for crafting specific genres of art-world documents (catalogue essays, short news articles, academic essays, and the like). [This] how-to provides enough art-specific insights to cut through the garble so common in the field.”' (Publisher's Weekly)

‘Fantastic... a must-read for every writer, reader, artist and designer.’ (

‘Thrillingly clear’
‘A beautifully formed guide to writing ... an incisive manual for clarity of thought. This guide could as easily apply to writing (and indeed thinking) on any creative endeavour... Essential!’
(Dressing the

‘A thoroughly sensible and accessible guide to writing that could almost be applied to any subject.’


art, writing

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1 September 2014

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Date Deposited:

26 Sep 2017 14:17

Last Modified:

03 Jul 2020 14:11


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