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Study information

Art Writing

Module titleArt Writing
Module codeAHVM003
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Tom Trevor (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module is designed to provide you with the expertise to analyse and assess critical and contextual writing and to gain proficiency in producing texts suitable for a variety of different platforms: including art criticism, briefing documents, catalogue essay writing, exhibition texts, interpretation materials, podcasts and online content. It combines the development of the analytical and literary skills suitable for contemporary art criticism with practical instruction in the professional standards required for the varied and distinctive writing tasks associated with the criticism of or support for contemporary art. It also includes instruction in the preparation of documents relevant to arts advocacy (orientated to NGOs and/or civic/government departments) and arts investment (for private or corporate interests). Throughout, attention will be paid to the interplay between content, medium and anticipated audience and the need to modulate writing styles to produce effective communication in a variety of contexts. The module will include seminars and practical workshops, drawing on existing writing protocols and templates. A focus will also continue on professional practice and curatorial methodologies.

There will be a 3-day field trip to visit London museums and galleries during this period.

This module is unsuitable for non-specialist students.

It is not recommended for interdisciplinary pathways.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to provide a detailed insight into the varieties of art writing relevant to the field of contemporary art. These include:

  • Arts criticism
  • Briefing documents for auction houses, investors (private and corporate) etc.
  • Catalogue writing
  • Exhibition texts
  • Interpretation materials
  • Podcasts and other online content
  • Strategic position papers for arts organisations
  • Arts advocacy for government agencies, civic authorities, NGOs and similar bodies

In addition to lectures and seminars on these various modes of art writing, and the professional standards required, the module promotes learning by doing, enabling you to acquire the requisite writing skills in a regular series of workshops and related tasks. Practical experience in art writing will equip you with a valuable skill set that should prove useful in the Internship module (AHVM004) and in preparing you for employment in this sector. Seminars will also continue training in professional practice and curatorial methodologies.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the practices, functions and audiences for different art writings
  • 2. Demonstrate the ability to distinguish and assess art writing’s purpose and value in a variety of circumstances and platforms, and for different end users
  • 3. Assess the merits of different approaches to art writing, comparing divergent writing practices and evaluating their application
  • 4. Demonstrate advanced knowledge and critical understanding of standard and alternative methodological approaches to art writing, and how to apply them to the interpretation of contemporary arts in a global context

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate an ability to make a contribution to a particular scholarly field and body of research in relation to contemporary art and the contemporary art world
  • 6. Demonstrate an advanced and autonomous ability to research and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, along with historical materials, and to apply these ideas to contemporary art discourse and critique

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Demonstrate the ability to undertake research using a variety of different kinds of sources
  • 8. Formulate independent responses to examples of practices and debates utilising appropriate methods of analysis
  • 9. Communicate ideas and arguments effectively, especially in writing
  • 10. Write a variety of arts-related texts to a professional standard

Syllabus plan

The module is delivered as a ‘short, fat’ intensive over 6 weeks. Whilst the content may vary, it is envisioned that the schedule will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Lectures will involve analysis and discussion of the place of art writing in the field of contemporary arts, including both explanatory and evaluative texts, and as a vital tool of curatorial practice, including for fundraising and advocacy purposes. A major concern will also be the analysis and assessment of the different contexts in which art writing operates, the audiences for which it is intended and the consequent implications for its production (style, vocabulary, assumptions about prior learning, length, medium, legibility etc.).  Consideration will be given to the adequacy of art writing as a means of engaging with art works, especially given the perceived resistance of art forms to verbal ‘capture.’
  • Field trips will include visits to relevant museums, galleries and arts institutions. Discursive sessions will be held in relation to the range of art writing associated with the collection displays or exhibitions encountered on the trip.
  • Writing workshops will focus on art writing for different purposes, with practical instruction and writing exercises to master the relevant techniques. A different writing task will be set each week, either to be completed during the workshop, or for submission by the following week, including a group presentation of students’ art reviews.
  • Seminars on professional practice and curatorial methodologies will include group discussion with a seminar tutor’s guidance. These sessions will equip you with the skills to plan and organise contemporary art projects in a variety of contexts.
  • Tutorials (2 x 30 minutes across the term): one-to-one meetings between each student and their module tutor.
  • A portfolio of designated weekly writing tasks

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 1010 x 1-hour weekly lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 128 x 90-minute writing workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 16.511 x 90-minute seminars on professional practice
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 243 day field trip to London galleries and museums
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 12 x 30-minute individual tutorial session spread across the term to check on individual student’s progress
Guided Independent Study30Independent/group reading of selected critical texts/practical examples for lectures, seminars and workshops
Guided Independent Study6.5Preparation for group presentation
Guided Independent Study200Reading and preparation for lectures, seminars, workshops, presentations and assessed coursework

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Review of an exhibition visited on the field trip1,500 words1-4Written feedback from tutor(s)
Group presentation of writings associated with exhibitions visited the field trip30-minute oral presentation (PowerPoint presentation and hand-outs used by group in presentation submitted to tutor(s) at the end of presentation)1-10Oral feedback in class, written feedback from tutor(s)

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio of designated writing tasks 605,500 words 1-10Written feedback from tutor(s)
Reflective essay403,500 words 1-9Written feedback from tutor(s)

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Portfolio of designated writing tasks Portfolio of designated writing tasks: 5500 words1-10Referral/deferral period
Reflective essayReflective essay: 3500 words1-9Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Anderson, T. ‘Defining and Structuring Art Criticism for Education’ Studies in Art Education Vol. 34,  No. 4 (Summer, 1993), pp. 199-208
  • Barrett, T. Criticizing Art: Understanding the Contemporary, Mayfield Publishing Company, 1994
  • Carrier, D. Artwriting, University of Massachusetts Press, 1987
  • Carrier, D. Writing about Visual Art (Aesthetics Today), Allworth Press, 2003
  • Fusco, M. With A Bao A Qu Reading When Attitudes Become Form, New Documents, 2013
  • Fusco, M. Give Up Art: Collected Writings (2005-15), New Documents, 2017
  • Hayot, E. The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities, Columbia UP, 2014
  • Khonsary, J. &  O’Brian, M. (eds) Judgment and Contemporary Art Criticism, Artspeak & Fillip Editions, 2010 
  • Mitchell, W.J.T. Picture Theory, Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation, University of Chicago Press, 1994
  • Serrell, B. Exhibit Labels: An Interpretive Approach, Rowman & Littlefield, 2015
  • Wallace, M &   Wray, A. Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates, Sage, 2016
  • Williams, G. How to Write About Contemporary Art, Thames and Hudson, 2014

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • F.R. David (ed. Will Holder) journal (2007 to present) concerned with the status of (reading and) writing in contemporary art practice. Published Amsterdam; available via Idea Books

Key words search

Contemporary art; visual art; art curator; curatorial practice; galleries; museums; art collections; collectors; art fairs; auction houses; biennials; art critic; art review; art catalogue; art blog; critical theory; art theory; art writing

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

AHVM001, AHVM002 

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date