How to Write About Contemporary Art

Gilda Williams

An essential handbook for students and professionals on writing eloquently, accurately, and originally about contemporary art

How to Write About Contemporary Art is the definitive guide to writing engagingly about the art of our time. Invaluable for students, arts professionals and other aspiring writers, the book first navigates readers through the key elements of style and content, from the aims and structure of a piece to its tone and language. Brimming with practical tips that range across the complete spectrum of art-writing, the second part of the book is organized around its specific forms, including academic essays; press releases and news articles; texts for auction and exhibition catalogues, gallery guides and wall labels; op-ed journalism and exhibition reviews; and writing for websites and blogs.

In counseling the reader against common pitfalls—such as jargon and poor structure—Gilda Williams points instead to the power of close looking and research, showing how to deploy language effectively; how to develop new ideas; and how to construct compelling texts. More than 30 illustrations throughout support closely analysed case studies of the best writing, in Source Texts by 64 authors, including Claire Bishop, Thomas Crow, T.J. Demos, Okwui Enwezor, Dave Hickey, John Kelsey, Chris Kraus, Rosalind Krauss, Stuart Morgan, Hito Steyerl, and Adam Szymczyk.

Supplemented by a general bibliography, advice on the use and misuse of grammar, and tips on how to construct your own contemporary art library, How to Write About Contemporary Art is the essential handbook for all those interested in communicating about the art of today.


Finally. A book that teaches you how to write and think clearly about art. I can imagine this book inspiriting future generations to write legibly and intelligently art criticism, a field that's become too hermetic and convoluted for its own good. Revolutionary, radical and long overdue. Bravo!

— Kenneth Goldsmith, poet and founder, UbuWeb

Fantastic… a straight-forward must-read for every writer, reader, artist and designer. Williams holds your hand, explaining why you need to do it, what you need to do, and how to do it.


Thrillingly clear … a beautifully formed guide to writing […] should be required reading across every creative discipline. Essential!


A thoroughly sensible and accessible guide to writing that could almost be applied to any subject.


Illuminates contemporary art writing, providing insights into what we write about when we write about art…[Williams] reenvisions what it means to be a professional art writer and outlines the methods, ethics and even the financing that could see the role of the writer codified and professionalized in a new and important way in the art world of tomorrow.

— Burnaway


Gilda Williams


Gilda Williams is a London correspondent for Artforum and lecturer at Goldsmiths College and Sotheby's Institute of Art, London. From 1994 to 2005 she was Editor and then Commissioning Editor at Phaidon Press. She is a former managing editor at Flash Art International and her writing has appeared in Tate Etc., Parkett, Art Monthly, Art in America and Time Out. Williams is author of The Gothic (2007) and has contributed to catalogues for exhibitions at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, the 48th Venice Biennale, and the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Rotterdam, among others.