A Teen’s Guide to Writing Art Reviews

By Mathew Bell


Image via Wbur


So you are going to write a review, well done, congratulations for stepping up to the job. Writing reviews is an important way to stay in the scene, whether it is film, art, food or music, your writing can change the world. Wait, why am I congratulating you when you haven’t started yet? Well, what are you waiting for?
Oh, that’s right, you are here to read a guide for writing a review. Hmm, one second…

Okay, let us start with first impressions.
• How do you feel?
• What are you expecting?
• Explain the event.
• Is there a theme?
• When were you there? / When will it happen?


“On the 3rd of August 2017, I sat down on a hard plastic chair with my posture curled and twisted. My eyes strained to pierce the glare on a bright laptop screen as I strategically typed out a format for how to write reviews. I hadn’t written a lot of reviews in the past, but the ones I had were freaking awesome. So it seemed necessary for me to share my knowledge with others interested in some guidance. Perhaps I’d start with an example.”

There, that wasn’t so hard.

After you have set the scene, you can start going into further detail and flesh out the topic of your review.

What caught your attention?
Was there a specific artwork that drew you in closer or further away? Describe the piece and explain its emotion, scale, detail, medium and technique. Is there a story or issue discussed in this artwork? Has the artist used metaphors or symbolic imagery? Do you like it? And if so, why? Do you dislike it? And if so, why?

How are you interacting with the art?
Whether we are conscious of it or not, simply viewing an artwork is interaction. Are you standing still or wandering around the edges of the room? Talk about your posture and pace. Have you been leaning in to view delicate details or standing back to explore the artwork in its entirety? Discuss your facial expressions in relation to the work.

How is the exhibition laid out?
Art exhibitions are usually curated with a purpose. Not only does artwork contain design principles and theories, so do the exhibition layouts. What colour combinations were used and how do they relate to each other? Is there a scale pattern? How are you being led through this experience? Is it a chaotic maze, a maddening masterpiece, or something more sleek and simple?

Sum up the experience
Finish off with an overall thought; explain what had been done well and if anything had been neglected or overlooked. Write about which artwork you enjoyed the most and whether the experience influenced or changed your perspective on certain issues or events. Has this exhibition affected your mood and was it meant to? Would you recommend the experience to your friends? Think about the way the art affects you and those around you as you write your review.

• Be creative and have fun

  • Writing a review should not be a chore; it can complement your perspective and personality.
  • Use suitable, expressive and playful language that relates to the topic.
  • Writing is its own art form; create a conversation between you, your audience and the artist.
  • Try forms of poetry, wordplay and metaphor.
  • Tell a story about your experience.
  • Take notes while you are there, reading back the notes will jog your memory.

Talk to the curator and artists if you can, they can broaden your experience and understanding of the exhibition.

Read the exhibition’s statement and artist statements to gain a deeper understanding.

Take photos and make sure to reference the artists
< Artist, Date, Title, Gallery, Medium, Size. >

Read your review out loud, take a break and come back to it- even a fifteen break can give you fresh eyes when it comes to proofreading and editing.

Ask your peers to read it and request feedback from friends or family if you can.

So now you are ready to write a review, well done, congratulations for reading this explanation. Now that you know the rules feel free to break them, that’s part of the fun in the art world. Why are you still reading? GO! Go now before I change my mind! Ssssk! Ssssk!



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