In this article, we use topic modeling to systematically explore topics discussed in contemporary art criticism. Analyzing 6965 articles published between 1991 and 2015 in Frieze, a leading art magazine, we find a plurality of topics characterizing professional discourse on contemporary art. Not surprisingly, media- or genre-specific topics such as film/cinema, photography, sculpture/installations, etc. emerge. Interestingly, extra-artistic topics also characterize contemporary art criticism: there is room for articles on new digital technology and on art and philosophy; there is also growing interest in the relationship between art and society. Our analysis shows that despite evolutions in the field of contemporary art – such as the ‘social turn’, in which contemporary art starts paying more attention to social forms and content – the prevalence of certain topics in contemporary art criticism has barely changed over the past 25 years. With this article, we demonstrate the unique value of topic modeling for cultural sociology: it is both a powerful computational technique to generate a bird’s-eye view of a huge text corpus and a heuristic device that locates key texts for further close reading.,
Cultural Sociology
Ghent University-Universiteit Gent

Roose, H, Roose, W., & Daenekindt, S.B.L. (2018). Trends in Contemporary Art Discourse: Using Topic Models to Analyze 25 years of Professional Art Criticism. Cultural Sociology, 12(3), 303–324. doi:10.1177/1749975518764861