ART REVIEW ASSIGNMENT
DUE October 28 at beginning of class
LENGTH 1000 words
(20% deducted for reviews more than 50 words over or under the
Be sure to cite the sources of your quotations and paraphrases using
the Chicago Style Manual. Failure to cite sources correctly is
plagiarism and may result in a grade loss of 20% – 100%.
Write a formal review of one of the works currently on exhibition at one
of the following galleries:
MacKenzie Art Gallery (3475 Albert St, Regina)
Dunlop Art Gallery (2311 12 Ave, Regina)
Art Gallery of Regina (2420 Elphinstone St, Regina)
Neutral Ground Artist-Run Centre (1835 Scarth St, Regina)
(See exhibition listing below for pre-approved exhibitions)
Choose a work of contemporary art in a public (not commercial) art
gallery, or a work of public art.
Your selection must be approved in writing by the instructor two weeks
prior to the assignment due date.
You must have seen the work in person.
Be sure to choose something that interests you, that suits the
assignment and that offers plenty to write about. Most people find
writing about representational art easier than writing about non-
The review will have a clearly stated thesis in the first paragraph.
The first or second paragraph will communicate vital facts about the
artwork and its exhibition: location of the artwork, exhibition title and
dates, the work’s title, size, date and medium.
Before any analysis, there will be a clear, evocative, denotative
description of the artwork that allows the reader to visualize the
artwork, so as to better understand the analysis that follows. The
description should fill a full paragraph.
There will be a formal reading – an observation and analysis of line,
space, perspective, colour and so on – of the work using appropriate
At the heart of the paper, there will be a reading of the content: what
does the artist intend to express through this work? Why did she make
it in this way? What do you think the work means? How does it make
you feel? What formal means are used to generate these thoughts
and feelings? If the work of art is more conceptual than formal, the
formal part of the essay can be shorter, but the description and
reading of the content will be longer and go into more depth.
A short paragraph in the final section will locate the work in its art
historical context or in comparison to the artist’s other works. Much of
the final section will consist of a critical evaluation of the art work that
develops out of your earlier comments. This is a reasoned judgement
of the work (not mere opinion). You will state what you believe to be
the artist’s goal in making this piece (you may quote the artist’s
statement or curator’s didactic panel), and show if, if not, or to what
degree she was successful.
The conclusion should summarize your ideas. You can also add your
subjective thoughts here.
GRADE: 25% (15% content; 10% form)
QUESTIONS TO GET YOU STARTED
These questions will form a useful starting point in gathering your
observations, reactions and thoughts about your chosen artwork.
Artist’s Name _________________________________
(Refer to the artist by their full name upon first mention and surname
Exhibition Title _______________________________
Exhibition Curator(s) _________________________
Artwork Title ____________________________
Artwork Date Created ____________________
Artwork Medium _______________________
Artwork Dimensions ____________________
Exhibiting Institution ______________________
The convention for initially describing a work is like this:
In the exhibition [exhibition title], [artist’s name’s] [title of artwork]
(date of artwork) is a [medium and support], [artwork or support’s
e.g. In the exhibition Lost Horizon, Ibrahim El Salahi’s Dreams(2017)
is an oil painting on canvas, 120 cm x 200 cm.
BACKGROUND ON THE ARTIST
Describe the artist’s career trajectory, background, motivation for
making the artwork, etc. (Only include this information in your review if
it influences the artist’s practice.)
Why is it important that this artwork is exhibited in this gallery, city or
environment? Does it resonate with a local cultural perspective or
political or social issue?
Why did a curator choose to include this work in the exhibition?
Didactic panels will often have this information.
DESCRIBE THE WORK
A description should allow your reader to form a picture of what you
saw. Generally, begin with a basic overview and move on to more
What are the artwork's physical qualities? Describe the materials,
colour, shape, texture, size, etc.
What kinds of colours are used?
It is orderly or disorderly?
Are the lines smooth and curved or jagged and straight?
How would you describe the texture?
What is the relationship between form and colour?
What materials are used?
How do different parts or elements relate to each other?
How was it made? (Or, how do you think it was made?)
What is depicted, narrated or argued in the work? Is it entirely about
How is the work is placed, displayed, framed, labeled, etc.?
How do the exhibition setting, lighting, descriptive texts, other works
shown nearby influence your reception of the artwork?
How do you interact with the work? Do you simply look at it? Do you
listen to it? Do you become immersed in it? Did it cause you to think?
Relationships between the elements of the artwork
What is this? Is it normally made from this sort of material? What
meaning does this material hold (for instance gold is a precious
material while animal dung is repugnant)?
Do these things (subject matter and medium, two materials) go
together? Why would the artist choose to put them together?
How is the work made? Is this process visible in the end product, or is
it hidden? How is it different, for example, to make something by hand
or to have something manufactured?
What feelings do the colours/line/texture give you?
Can you say that this is one type of art (e.g. drawing, video) or is it a
hybrid? Why would the artist choose this medium or combine media?
What is the work doing in the world? What are some verbs associated
with it? What is its opposite? What does it refuse to do?
What are gallery visitors doing when they encounter the work? What is
their reaction? What do they say about it? What effects does it have?
What does this work exclude, prevent, or prohibit? Does everyone
have equal opportunity to “experience” or “get” this work?
What art work of the past does this relate to? Does it explicitly refer to
previous artists or cultural figures? How does it relate to the artist’s
past work? Does it offer any new conceptions or practices to what we
think of as art? How does it present or consider gender, race, class,
power, media, and so on?
Establishing a broad context
Why did the artist chose to make this work as they did?
Try changing any of the questions in the section above to “why”
What are their opinions on the subject they have addressed?
Is this artwork asking questions of us?
Does the work represent a social issue?
Can you explain what the work “means” in one sentence?
Does this work rely upon art history or the viewer’s knowledge of
Does the artwork respond to, adhere to or contradict accepted
histories of art – who makes images, who/what is depicted and how?
The title is often a clue to the artist’s intended meaning. It is often
worth analyzing. What does the title add to your understanding of the
Assessing an artwork is not about judging it as “good” or “bad.” In this
course, you are asked to assess the success of an artist in
communicating through the visual medium.
Was the artist successful in their aims to communicate an idea or
provoke a feeling?
As a viewer, were you able to decode the visual language of the
artwork and put this together with the artwork’s context and your lived
experiences to create meaning? If information was missing, what
could the artist have done to make this work more accessible?
What was your first reaction to this artwork? Did this change at the
end of your observation and analysis?
Did the artwork contain contradictory messages? Why was this – was
the artist confused, ambivalent, or careless?
Does the artwork have a meaning other than the one intended by the
artist? (One which may enhance the artwork or detract from its value.)
Why is it important?