Lorem ipsum dolor amet, consect adipiscing elit, diam nonummy.



Discussions – How We Write About Art

June, 2021.

Within the second cycle of the forum program organized by the New Gallery of Visual Arts, the nature of texts for the exhibition, monographic publications and other text catalogs accompanying various events at the contemporary artistic scene were discussed.


Art historian – Danijela Purešević;


Nela Tonković, Aleksandra Lazar, Nebojša Milenković, Maja Stanković, Miroslav Karić i Vladimir Bjeličić.


In the local context oversaturated by a series of social and political problems for wider audience the art is still a field dedicated only to experts and those society members who have privilege in principle. There are many reasons for such perception, starting with education system, via class differences and generation gap, to media twilight and official cultural policy whose predominant aim is complete commodification and commercialization of practices of all those agents taking part in cultural production. In such circumstances, writing about art appears for the majority (frequently pretentiously) autistic, self-sufficient activity which fails to establish any connection with contemporary age.

With regards to this, guided by the idea that different formats of monographic, catalog and critical texts of such type are insufficiently visible and understandable to the audience, the New Gallery of Visual Arts (NGVA) in Belgrade initiated during 2021 the cycle of fora dedicated to writing about art. So far, two discussions gathering several positioned participants of the local scene who presented different observations related to the topic were organized.

Art historian Danijela Purešević moderated the first discussion with Nela Tonković, Aleksandra Lazar and Nebojša Milenković. During the discussion multilayered standpoints emerging from various professional experiences of the interlocutors related to great institutions and private galleries in the country and abroad were presented. Similar situation occurred in the second conversation with Maja Stanković, Miroslav Karić and author of this text, also moderated by Danijela Purešević.

The mentioned art historians and curators first asked the question for whom it is written about art. Whether such texts emerge for the purpose of the profession or if they have another purpose, to be more precise, are they used by wider audience as a useful interpretation tool? Through both conversations it turned out that the reception of the text to the greatest extent is determined by their nature. Whether it is about curator texts written for the catalog of independent art exhibitions, those written for monographic publications, reviews of certain events or, however, performative texts, interlocutors agreed that a form of critical reflection is necessary and that as such it may contribute to a wider dialog to the topic of the role of art in society.

The observations were presented with regards to the language used in writing about art, especially those which are abundant with hermeticity to such extent that only professional audience may understand them, whereas most of them is also boring. The importance of the educational system was taken into considerations, especially of the art history department of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade and that fact that only few writers emerged in the past ten years owing to rare programs such as the regional project Criticize This!, realized by the group of culture portals.

Since art itself is in crisis, entirely marginalized, especially in the peripheral societies such as ours, the situation with writing about it is the same. The manner in which the communication with audience is established depends also on the style of the author, access and interpretation of the artistic work. It is also emphasized that the texts should communicate clear social and political and ideological message and using them traumatic topics should be communicated.

Many questions were opened, many parallels were made and observations presented and since both conversations were public, it gave to the audience the possibility to participate in a direct dialog with interlocutors so they were additionally encouraged to consider certain aspects of writing about art which otherwise could have been easily neglected.

We certainly need more such conversations, because the topic is complex and there should be a thematic processing of specificities of different directions of writing about art. Such categorization would be necessary both in the independent and institutional context so as to define the guidelines related to literary expressions, but also the regulation of the work obligation of the person writing this text (for whom, about what, why). Finally, writing about art is the issue of socially responsible performance whose role in general production of various forms of knowledge may not be disputed or ignored.

Vladimir Bjeličić,

Art historian