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How to Critique an Art Exhibition


By Prev Info - January 22, 2023

How to Critique an Art Exhibition

Critiquing an exhibition goes beyond the gallery

An exhibition is a gallery's display of an art collection. Exhibitions have meaning for the hosting gallery and artist behind the work. Critiquing an art exhibition requires the evaluator to be informed about the artist and specifics of the work. Museums with great masters like Pablo Picasso and Francisco de Goya have history that portrays the work in question. Whereas an artist's personal exhibition may impact his progressing career. Critiquing an exhibition requires observation, assessment and analysis.

Instructions

  1. Take an objective inventory of the collection. Observe individual pieces in detail and make neutral statements. Take detailed notes about features of the subject: flowers, people, animals, anything that stands out. You should note abstract elements like patterns and use of colors and shapes. Notice how the artist applies certain colors to objects and the texture or composition of the medium.

  2. Interpret the artwork based on your personal response. Does the work evoke emotion or feelings? Make statements about the possible intention of the artist. Does the collection have meaning? Support your claims with the evidence you took note of in observations. This point of the evaluation is creative and complex. A review doesn't decide the exhibition a success or failure, rather assesses the artwork's ideology.

  3. The final critique of the exhibition incorporates your interpretation of the collection as well as your understanding of the artist's intentions. You should enter the work into conversation with theory, history and culture. Based on research and evidence, decide if the collection represents the artist's intent. Was your reaction that of which you believe the artist aspired?

How to Write a Critique on an Art Exhibit

Critiquing artwork is not about expressing your personal aesthetic preferences, but rather it is a process of highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of a piece in regards to other cultural and historical influences, artworks, techniques and materials. While your subjective commentary can increase readability, drawing strong correlations and including clear points with examples adds credence to your review and should always be at the heart of your writing even when discussing an entire exhibit. Don't struggle to do justice to each and every art object; select a few pieces that typify the group and discuss them in the context of the show.

Instructions

  1. Walk through the exhibit and take notes as if you were writing a reaction piece. Note your feelings, thoughts and initial impressions. Follow the intended path to complete a natural circuit around the gallery and then move through the room organically examining each piece.

  2. Write down the name of pieces that stand out or typify the group. List the name, material, size, date, location and other identifying information. Select three to five pieces depending on the length of the critique you will write.

  3. Describe each of the art objects in a brief three-sentence paragraph noting the identifying information and categorizing the piece with a recognized art period, style or movement. The authors of "Pluralistic Approaches to Art Criticism" recommend thinking of your writing as a verbal reconstruction, assuming that the audience will never see the exhibit.

  4. Tailor the language of the description to the intended audience of the critique; do not take your personal knowledge of the arts for granted. For example, if you are discussing a piece of art deco, it would be helpful to a general audience to note that this style was developed in France during the aftermath of WWI in the heat of the Roaring Twenties.

  5. Order the paragraphs so they appear in a logical order. Arrange pieces by year, position in the gallery, complexity or interest. Start and end with an interesting piece.

  6. Write an introductory paragraph that includes some background on the artist and the exhibit. Look for an anecdotal story about the decision to host this exhibit, the artist's life or setting up the show -- for example, "In the 20 years since its inception, the Allen Art Gallery has been host to crowds as large as 5,000. This weekend they expect to welcome more than 2,000 heads -- severed heads to be exact. The heady crowd is part of a special exhibit by ceramicist Pablo Rango."

  7. Read through the piece from top to bottom and add transitioning sentences and paragraphs where needed. Bridge the gap between the introduction and first description using a specific detail -- for example, "The exhibit features more than 300 busts, the first of which, 'Ashamed Night,' stands post at the ticket counter."

  8. Spell check the critique by reading each sentence out of context from the last sentence to the first.

  9. Read the critique out loud to catch additional errors.

  10. Inject additional information as needed. Ensure that the piece provides an accurate statement of the location, art style, purpose of the exhibit, artist's background and influences, and descriptions of key pieces; after reading your critique a member of your audience should be able to describe some elements of the exhibit.






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