The internationalized art world relies on a unique language. Its purest articulation is found in the digital press release. This language has everything to do with English, but it is emphatically not English. It is largely an export of the Anglophone world and can thank the global dominance of English for its current reach. But what really matters for this language—what ultimately makes it a language—is the pointed distance from English that it has always cultivated.
In what follows, we examine some of the curious lexical, grammatical, and stylistic features of what we call International Art English. We consider IAE’s origins, and speculate about the future of this language through which contemporary art is created, promoted, sold, and understood. Some will read our argument as an overelaborate joke. But there’s nothing funny about this language to its users. And the scale of its use testifies to the stakes involved. We are quite serious.