How to Write About Contemporary Art

An immersive introduction to the skills and concepts needed to write about contemporary art

This week-long specialist summer school will provide an immersive introduction to the concepts and skills involved in writing about contemporary art. Delivered by prominent and experienced writers, academics and curators, the course will offer a series of writing workshops devoted to key concepts in contemporary art and criticism, pitching and writing reviews, the uses of sustained attention and description, and writing for the museum and gallery wall. Delivered in the context of the London art world, the course will explore a range of contemporary exhibitions and respond to them in critical and creative ways.

The course is aimed at aspiring and early-career writers, print and online journalists, curators and other gallery or museum professionals who wish to improve their writing about contemporary art. The classes will be led by staff of the Writing programme at the RCA, all of whom are published authors who have written widely for publications including the Guardian, Artforum, The White Review, Cabinet magazine and frieze.

Duration:  1 week

Location: Royal College of Art, Kensington

Fee: £1,250 

What will I learn?

  • An overview of publishing practices and platforms in contemporary art
  • An opportunity to develop and test your writing skills on current exhibition
  • Access to widely published art critics, writers and editors

Participants will explore a range of ideas and skills including:

  • discovery and discussion of key concepts in contemporary art and criticism
  • how to pitch and write reviews of contemporary art
  • how to write for exhibitions: from wall text to catalogue essay
  • the skills involved in concise description
  • building a profile as a print and/or online critic.

How will I learn?

This summer school will be taught in a combination of lectures, seminars and writing workshops, and field trips to current exhibitions.

  • two lectures from widely published critics
  • close reading of criticism in seminars
  • three writing workshops
  • two visits to current exhibitions.

Who should attend?

The course is aimed at anyone interested in improving their writing about art and culture, including:

  • aspiring and early-career writers and journalists
  • gallery or museum curators, educators and public programmers
  • current or prospective students of art history and theory, curating and critical or creative writing
  • anyone considering applying for an MA or PhD at the Royal College of Art.

Programme team

Teaching will be delivered by staff from the School of Art & Humanities: Writing Programme. 

Dr Brian Dillon is Acting Head of the Writing Programme at the RCA. He has written many books on art and culture, including Essayism (2017), Objects in This Mirror (2014) and In the Dark Room (2005). He writes about contemporary art for frieze, Artforum, the Guardian and London Review of Books. He has curated exhibitions for Tate and the Hayward Gallery, and is an editor of Cabinet, an art and culture magazine based in New York.

Admission criteria

Fluency in written English. A background in art/design is helpful but not essential. 

Application deadlines

Register your interest to download the full course description.


School of Arts and Humanities
T: +44 (0)20 7590 4538


Register your interest to download the full course description.

'The essay is a venerable form that may well be the genre of the future. It can be tethered to a specific (perhaps polemical) context or written with an ambition to timeless or universal import. Whatever its motivation or avowed theme, the essay possesses a style and a voice.'

Dr Brian Dillon

Dr Brian Dillon
Dr Brian Dillon