Art Speak

Below is an excerpt from an interesting article written in GQ about art speak, it lists a few phrases that might come in handy if you want to sound knowledgeable about art. Enjoy!

Art speak image

Useful art lingo: the GQ cheat-sheet

Visual energy

"For example, 'The colour relationships within this work give it a real sense of visual energy'."


"Anytime someone in a photo or image is looking directly at you, you can say 'the direct gaze is really intimate', and that's good on a date. Don't be too cheesy though."


"This is a good word to use when something has vaguely sexual content. You can say it to show that you acknowledge it and that you can handle it."


"Dynamic is a really good word, because again it doesn't mean much besides interesting, powerful or active - its really vague. You can often say the viewpoint makes the image more visually dynamic - that's a good stock phrase for a lot of photography.


"Engages is a real buzzword in the art world at the moment, you can just say: 'This Andy Warhol really engages with popular culture'."

Visual language

"Don't ever say 'looks like', say: 'this engages with the visual language of...' If you see some really crap street art you can say'that really engages with the visual language of Banksy" (it means it nicks his ideas, or else it just looks like him).


"Space is a great word, saying this is an amazing space, or a beautiful space, that's a good way of getting around talking about the art itself."


"Don't ever say you don't understand something. Say this content is 'really challenging', or even better say this 'challenges assumptions about space, or gender" - even if there aren't any assumptions about it."

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