Archive

Soapbox

I’ve seen a lot of exhibition press releases in my time. The good ones tell journalists what’s happening and why they should be interested. The bad ones? Well, here are some thoughts on common mistakes.

1) The blind leading the blind

The text-only press release is a particularly sorry beast. Sure, some practices may be more about concepts than objects. And that line of thinking is fine as far as it goes. But when journalists get your press release, they are not going to make a cup of tea and prepare to settle in for 15 minutes to read a long press release. If it takes too long to form a mental picture of the work, then the press release isn’t doing its job. Read More

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Editing Art Collector I’ve seen a lot of artist statements – on gallery floor sheets and websites, media releases and exhibition invitations. Some are well-written and some are, to put it mildly, just not. Here are a few thoughts on what sets the good ones apart.

1) Diplomacy

There are different views on this, depending on how important you rate the artist’s intent, but I think the best artist statements I’ve seen are diplomatic. They aren’t didactic, but instead suggest a few different ways into the work and quietly leave it at that.

For the most part artist statements are read by people who have just walked into a gallery, often before they’ve taken a good look at the art. They could have been following the artist’s work for years, or maybe they’re encountering it for the first time. Either way, they’re (usually) not idiots. A little bit of space to think things through is a sign of respect.

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Interrogate – although it does amuse me to imagine artists as plodding detectives, shining desk lamps in the faces of moody and recalcitrant ideas.

Facilitate – if your job description involves “facilitating projects” or, worse, “facilitating ideas” then I’m sad to say you’re guilty of verb crimes against humanity.

Notions – oh sure, it’s quaint. It has a touch of the Aunty Mabels about it. But that’s precisely why it’s so odd to see it turn up in discussions of not-so-fluffy ideas (“notions of capitalism”). File this one under “use your thesaurus wisely”.

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A brief survey of artists I follow on Twitter, both real and fake:

@JennyHolzerCat

For all caps aphorisms, Jenny Holzer style, like “REDISTRIBUTING WEALTH IS IMPERATIVE SO I’VE LEFT A DEAD BIRD ON YOUR DOORSTEP”. Jenny Holzer’s Cat is one of the all-time classic Twitter fakes.

@DanMudCun

Artist, writer and curator Daniel Mudie Cunningham shows why he really should have been a sub-editor. Sometimes they’re art puns (“Mike Parr for the course”) but mostly they’re just silly (“Sold my soul to the Breville again.”). Only true subs find puns like that funny.

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