on writing

Usually, I hesitate to say that art writing has rules, but there are some glaring mistakes that should be avoided or else your writing will, at the very least, lack conceptual heft and make you seem unaccustomed to writing about the world of images. However specific and nitpicking some of my advice may be,  word choice is something to mull over if you want to have gripping and forceful prose. For Rule #1, see the previous post.

Rule # 2: Exhibit versus Exhibition

My preference for using the noun “exhibition” in contrast to “exhibit” is more than just a stylistic preference.  In terms of art, exhibition is more palatable for me because an exhibit can refer to any public display of objects, such as at a trade fair or even a primary school science fair. Another dilemma that stems from using “exhibit” is the confusion that can arise from this term since it is both a noun and a verb.

In terms of remaining consistent with the terminology common to the rest of the art world, no one in museums or galleries refers to “exhibit catalogues,” but rather “exhibition catalogues.”  Historically, the Crystal Palace was held at The Great Exhibition of 1851, not The Great Exhibit of 1851.  The Exhibitionist is a new and exciting journal published “by curators for curators” and I love that the title playfully touches on the commonalities among curating, performance, and extravagant displays of self-publicity.

From the Oxford Dictionary of English (2nd edition), to exhibit is to “offer, furnish, administer; submit to view, display.” Exactly. Stick with “to exhibit,” but leave “exhibit” at home when you’re out at the museum.

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