'Museum Doctor': Cultural Consultant, Content Designer, Writer
Artspeak Is The Devil
February 2, 2018
I refuse to believe that I'm an idiot. But sometimes when I enter into an art museum, it's really hard for me to cling to my confidence. I read the introductory panels and blink. I read again. Then a third time. I often actually have no idea what the exhibition's thesis is or what I am about to see. It can get worse with each caption. I get more and more overwhelmed and then I leave. Sure I can appreciate the individual work, but mostly, I have no idea what the curator has been trying to say or show.
The purpose of text in an exhibition is to guide and illuminate visitors. It is not to show off how smart the curators are. The art of text writing for exhibitions is to say a lot briefly, in an accessibly way (grade 7 or 8 level) that helps people to enjoy the work, appreciate the curation and theme and generally leave feeling awesome.
And another thing- make sure a native language speaker, and preferably someone experienced does the translation...
I have an ongoing collection of exhibition text I come across. See for yourself what works and what does not.