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Real Talk: Turning Off Art Speak

Real Talk: Turning Off Art Speak

Did you know there is an official term for art speak? It’s called International Art English. Regardless of what you call it, let’s just say it, art speak is a total turn-off. While you may think it makes you sound sophisticated. Nobody knows what you are saying, and you may not either. There is a difference between being well-versed and trained in contemporary art terms, and using “art speak,” and sounding like an idiot. Here are some key reasons art speak should be unspeakable.

It creates confusion about your work – Art speak doesn’t really allow for using context clues to figure out the meaning of the work. This form of language can be very distracting, confusing, and irritating to novice art enthusiasts or gallery visitors. Its usage can leave more heads scratching than critical thoughts about your work. Work that is poorly executed with art speak-packed statement is the biggest turn-off. It uses language to justify lesser quality work.

It disengages your audience – Your audience, viewers and potential buyers are probably not going to come up to you and ask you to explain the meaning behind the art speak found your artist statement. And if you are speaking this way to them in person, they are most likely going to nod and smile at you as you completely disengage and turn away your audience, follower, free promoter, and future gallery visitor.

It prevents sales – If your work is too fancy and seemingly elevated, then how could someone who doesn’t understand this form of language feel qualified to purchase work from you? Part of this is being able to have basic customer service skills and demonstrate the value of the product to the customer. How can you relate to your potential buyer and make the sale if they don’t understand the product (your art)? Buying and selling art isn’t always about how a piece looks. Meaning, context, and artist affiliations are just a few ways that can help seal a sale.

It’s a niche language – Artspeak has its relevance. Museums, curators, and art writers will heavily utilize this language throughout their careers. Artists, real artists I should say, don’t. What about grant proposals you ask? Rule number one when writing grants is no art speak or jargon. Writing and talking about your work in ways that people actually understand you are actually imperative to your success. While art speak can strangely be encouraged in art school, lose it once you get in the local art community. There’s often an air of novice or undeveloped professionals from very young emerging artists who fly out the gate in their early careers babbling in art speak.

It creates a false perception about you -There is something engaging about an artist who is real, someone who wants to talk about what they do and why in an honest and understandable way. Artists are real people and art is about real experiences, emotions, and expressions of creativity.

When a gallery promotes your work or makes a statement about your art that uses art speak language or terms that feel perhaps a bit “off,” speak up. Being authentically you and being true to your brand or work is a valuable skill that will literally pay off and create a stronger relationship between you, galleries, and your audience.


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