The Word is Art

Michael Petry

A fascinating overview of how contemporary artists incorporate text and language into work that speaks to the most pressing issues of the 21st century. 

In this new volume celebrated artist and curator Michael Petry, addresses media and marketplace concerns about the state of language and the value of books in the digital age.

As words find new modes of transmission in contemporary society, text becomes information, and information strives to become free, Petry asks, what value can text hold in the sphere of visual art? Looking at the work of a broad range of artists including Bruce Nauman, Julien Breton, Jeremy Deller, Takashi Murakami, Tracey Emin, Christian Boltanski, and more, The Word is Art explores this and related questions and demonstrates how words remain critical, powerful, and central to art practice.

Presenting major areas where the word has dominated artistic practice, this book takes us on a fascinating and richly illustrated global tour of diverse contemporary art forms. 


A unique, in-depth, and well-rounded study… Petry takes the readers on an armchair tour of diverse art forms around the world with these guiding questions: How does the use of text contribute to contemporary art practice? How does art making with words shape and inform our understanding of ourselves and the world around us? … The application of various font sizes to the text for different sections and the well thought-out choice and placement of visually arresting images make for an engaging and captivating read. It is sure to be a treasured reference on the subject of the word as art

— ARLIS/NA Reviews


Michael Petry


Michael Petry is an artist, author, and Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) London, and Guest Curator for culture agency Futurecity. He has authored and co-authored a number of books including The Trouble With Michael and Nature Morte: Contemporary Artists Reinvigorate the Still-Life Tradition.