Each of these fields has its own technical terminology, which can make art texts some of the most varied and challenging to translate. In fact, art translations can include everything from large format books and promotional materials for museums and art galleries, right the way through to essays, newspapers articles, art critiques, reviews, exhibition catalogues, panels, photo captions, etc.
This means a translator of art texts must have a good knowledge of the techniques used in the various disciplines – this is where technical translation comes into the picture – but also know about its history and diffusion, not to mention the specific culture in which a given art form came to life, among other things. For example, anyone who visited the Cuban art exhibition at PAC in Milan, will realise the importance of understanding the historical scenario in Cuba, where an absolutist regime prohibited artists from expressing themselves freely for many years.
Then there’s art critiques, which describe, analyse and study the characteristics of an artist’s work. In this case, the terminology can be slightly less technical, but the translator will still require a good knowledge of the subject and the expressions used in the field. It’s a language that is rarely simple and straightforward and these documents can never be considered solely a translation.
Art catalogues tend to hover somewhere in between, because they often combine the story of an artist or movement with pictures and observations of the works. The description of works, especially if we refer to modern and contemporary art [come sopra], which uses an enormous variety of techniques and sometimes the most peculiar of materials, often requires in-depth research to make the reader not only understand the characteristics of the work and how it was created, but also the emotions that it arouses in the spectator. This means, the translator must not only have technical knowledge but also the literary finesse to express those feelings and concepts fluidly in the target language; all skills that our more specialist or experienced translators can provide.