How to Write an Art Exhibition Review

Three Methods:Experiencing and Describing the ExhibitionAnalyzing and Critiquing the ExhibitionChecking and Editing Your Work

You may have to write an art exhibition review for your job as a writer, or for a school assignment. Reflecting and writing on art can be a creative experience and reviews are very important to spreading awareness about new exhibits and give artists feedback. To write a good review on an art exhibition, you'll need to incorporate your viewing experience into an informed and critical piece.

Method 1
Experiencing and Describing the Exhibition

  1. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 1
    Do background research on the artist and exhibit. You do not need to include a full-blown biography on the artist, but it's important to include information useful to understanding the work you're examining. For example, you do not need to include where the artist was born unless the art work is about this place and it will help the reader understand the work better. Useful information to include is time period of the artist, their major influences and any personal information that may help explain the style or subject of the work. Similarly, you'll want to include any information you find out about the particular work or works. [1]
    • Art is never created in a vacuum. It is important to understand the historical, cultural and social circumstances behind the creation and creator. This will help you get closer to the intentions of the artist.
  2. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 2
    Walk through the entire physical space. This will help you appreciate the exhibit as a whole and how it fits into the curatorial goals. This can be helpful to gaining an overall feel for the exhibition.
    • After this cursory walk-through, view the piece or pieces you're writing about very carefully. Pay attention to the little details and examine the work very carefully.
  3. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 3
    Chronicle your viewing experience with notes. Although you will not want to include personal musings and notes in the review itself, when you visit the exhibition it's a great idea to write down notes of your impressions and experiences. Jot down all that you think and feel when viewing the work or works and use them to help write your analysis later. Think about the goals of the exhibition. It can be helpful to ask the following questions: [2]
    • Why are the art pieces ordered or arranged this way?
    • Does a particular artwork stand out from the rest?
    • Is there a theme or a subtext to the exhibition?
    • How is this exhibit different from others I've seen?
  4. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 4
    Write a physical description of the exhibition. You will want to save your interpretations for later in the review. Write a detailed description of the colors, subjects, and shapes found in the piece. Your goal here is so that the person reading it can begin to imagine what the exhibition looks like. This sort of straight forward description can be useful for your own references as you go back reflecting on your experience. [3]

Method 2
Analyzing and Critiquing the Exhibition

  1. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 5
    Discuss and research important themes. Art history scholarship can have important themes to bring in. For example, if the exhibition is of a Baroque era artist, you should include the important styles and terminology frequently used for this period. [4]
  2. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 6
    Critique the exhibition. Critiques do not always have to be bad but can be good. It may be more useful to think of it as judgement. You can do this on the subject matter, the artist's rendering of the subject matter or even colors or placements within the piece. The best critique is one that enters into a conversation with the context of the works, the artist and evaluates it in a nuanced way that highlights important themes.
    • It is not enough to simply say you like or dislike a work but you should be able to say why. It is fine to mention that a particular piece evokes a certain feeling. At this point you can also offer a critique of the display, lighting, and choice of pieces.
    • Consider this a persuasive argument and use evidence and research to back up your interpretation.
  3. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 7
    Write about distinctive features of the exhibition. Analyze the use of shading, colors, line work, and the medium used. You can also look for iconographic and symbolic elements of the piece of art at this point. This should seek to answer the question "What do you see?" in a way that goes beyond just physical description. Focus on what makes the piece unique. [5]
  4. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 8
    Meet with a docent or curator if possible. This can be useful to your analysis and evaluation. They may be able to offer insights into the works not readily available as well as the rationale behind the arrangement of the space and pieces. [6]
    • If you can't meet with them personally, local newspapers or art magazines may have interviews available that may offer similar information. An internet search can also yield some useful information on a particular curator and they may have public comments on a new exhibition you can find with a simple search.
  5. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 9
    Interview a fellow attendee about their experience of the exhibition. This is a good way to see how your experience and insights compare to another viewer. When interviewing your colleague, start with general questions and move on to more directed questions that address specific pieces within the exhibition.
    • A general question might be, "How often do you visit art exhibitions?" A more directed question would be, "What do you think the most appealing aspect of this exhibition is?" "Why is that?"
    • Try to keep your colleague on task and to define the terms they use. Also, try to get an understanding of the process by which they make decisions and evaluate art.
  6. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 10
    Read other reviews on the exhibition. After you're done writing your piece, it would be a good time to stand back and see how your thoughts compare to others reviewing the exhibition. You will have to be careful that the ideas of the reviewer do not overly influence your experience of the exhibition, but many times they can include information that add to your own understanding. Make sure to cite any reviews you use.

Method 3
Checking and Editing Your Work

  1. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 11
    Make sure the format of your review is correct. This includes page length and format but also including all the basic components necessary for an art exhibition review. You will generally want to include an introduction paragraph, a section on the work your reviewing (including background, physical description), a section on the space it's being displayed as well as a section offering analysis and evaluations. You will also want to include a concluding paragraph that wraps up major points and summarizes the review. [7]
    • If your teacher or professor gave a grading rubric of assignment description, make sure your work adheres to these standards including citation style, length, and subject requirements.
  2. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 12
    Know the genre you're writing within.The language should be formal. Although you can include adjectives and descriptions of the work, do not fall into banal adjectives like "beautiful" to describe the work unless you can properly explicate why it is beautiful in clear writing. Show you took the time to understand and analyze the exhibition by choosing your words carefully. [8]
    • Understand the connotations of your words. Remember that you are writing about art and terms like "classic" can have time-period connotations and should be used carefully and appropriately.
  3. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 13
    Know your audience. This is also important in the language that you use. If you are writing for an art history professor you can freely use discipline-centric jargon that they will understand. However, if it is for a mainstream publication read by people without an extensive art history background, you will want to either avoid jargon or explain it fully within the text.
  4. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 14
    Make sure to cite your research properly. Although reviews are not usually the same as academic essays, you will not want to steal the words of another reviewer or background information without proper credit. Your publication may have certain requirements, but generally footnotes are avoided and you should simply find an in-text way to make reference to where you are getting your information. [9]
  5. Image titled Write an Art Exhibition Review Step 15
    Finish early and let the work sit. This can be hard if you are on a strict deadline, but planning accordingly can help your writing immensely. Generally it is a good idea to write your review and then set it aside for at least 24 hours before re-visting it.
    • This will help your writing and editorial process but can also help your evaluations. Perhaps you re-read a work after 24 hours and have come to a different experience and analysis of the exhibition. By making your writing a process rather than a one-time sit down affair, you can get the best out of your work.


  • Don't overuse superlatives. If you fall into the trap of calling every artwork you see "breathtaking," "magnificent" or "flawless," you'll soon come off as a shallow, uninformed critic. Likewise, calling everything you dislike "appalling," "disgusting," or "terrible" will give you a bad reputation and probably earn you a few enemies.
  • Always have materials ready for taking notes or recording conversations.
  • Be polite to your interview subjects.
  • Stay informed of current trends and ideas in the art scene. Subscribe to newspapers, magazines, blogs, and Twitter accounts that report the latest art news.
  • Do your research. Experts will quickly write you off if you don't know the basics of art history and the contemporary art scene.
  • Keep an open mind. Don't go into any exhibit expecting to hate it. Always be open to the idea of new methods and concepts.

Article Info

Categories: Exhibited Arts | Research and Review