As an artist, you’re likely quite used to making statements through your craft. But do you ever take the time to consider how you might make a statement regarding your career? Whether you call it an artist resume or an artist CV, every artist should consider how they might present themselves on paper (or the screen).
How an Artist Resume (or CV) is Different from a traditional resume
If you’ve ever applied for a job or a grad school program, then you’re likely familiar with resumes. A document that’s meant to be informative and encapsulate your professional experience, the resume is often assigned the most significance when determining whether to hire an applicant for a particular job. And while you may have thought that your resume days were behind you when you decided to become an artist, you actually couldn’t be farther from the truth.
It’s unlikely that a gallery, museum, or exhibition space will take your work seriously if you don’t have the proper materials to submit alongside your work. Your artist resume is a useful tool when dealing with potential collectors or patrons, who will be curious about your career trajectory before determining whether to invest in you as an artist, as Brian Swarts, the President of New York’s Taglialatella Galleries, notes.
“It’s important for collectors to have a historical backup of museums and collections that an artist belongs to give collectors history and some comfort in what they’re buying,” says Swarts. “They want to make certain that the artist is investable and that the work isn’t just a painting on a wall by someone never to be heard from again.”
For example, they’ll be curious about where you went to school, whether you completed any residencies, and whether you’ve had any exhibitions. Being able to determine that information will allow them to form an opinion about your potential worth – present and future – in the art world marketplace, so designing a career that keeps your artist CV in mind is crucial if you want to develop a relationship with art collectors.
Most people have, at some point or another, used a resume to detail their particular skill set and experience. A traditional resume is an itemized list of your education, work experience, and skills background, meant to convey why you might be suitable for one position or another. The key tenet of the resume is that it is meant to be tailored to accentuate certain items depending upon the audience. As an example, an artist sending a resume to a gallery may want to lead with the most important or noteworthy exhibitions or institutions their work might be found in, while an artist applying to a resume may wish to highlight their educational experience.
Your resume is a concise list of what you have done. It’s less of a way to market yourself for work and more of a laundry list of accomplishments. It’s not a document that is tailored for different positions, but it is constantly being added to as new work is created or some other creative highlight occurs, such as winning an award or being in a magazine. Over time, your artist resume can become very long, which is why the corporate world focuses on resumes but the academic and fine art worlds tend to prefer CVs.
So, now that you understand the importance of writing a resume, what needs to go in it?
Crafting Your Artist Resume
As we discussed, the principal purpose of writing an artist resume is to give a detailed and well-documented history of your education and career as an artist. The artist resume is quite different from a more corporate or professional resume in that an artist will focus first on exhibitions or where your work has been collected rather than on your work experience (If you’re applying to a professional, art-related job, then you might want to tailor your resume differently.)
Your resume is not a place to embellish – instead, you’ll want to carefully list your education and professional accomplishments, awards, or any press recognition you’ve received.
To begin with, your resume should be written in the third person rather than in the first person. It should begin with an artist bio, including pertinent details such as where you’re from, where you currently live, your medium and style, and perhaps a list of important skills.
It’s important to remember that your artist resume is not a place to embellish or appear unprofessional. This document is meant to highlight your artistic experience and serve as a calling card for a potential gallery or collector. Avoid using hyperbole, and make sure you have a professional email address and include links to your website or online portfolio.
These are the key areas you can include. If don’t have information for these items because you don’t have the experience, just leave them out.
- Personal details – your name and your contact information, such as your email address and phone number.
- Artist statement – read more about crafting the perfect artist statement here.
- Education – include your bachelor’s education and any post-secondary arts.
- Exhibitions – list where you’ve exhibited, beginning with the most recent shows first.
- Bibliography – if your work has been written about in any publications, this is the place to list that. See a citation guide for guidance on formatting your bibliography.
- Collections – list any public institutions that own your artwork.
- Publications – if you’ve published arts-related writing, include it here!
- Teaching – have you ever served as an adjunct professor or instructor? Include that information here!
- Curatorial projects – if you’ve ever participated in a curatorial capacity – this can even include in your own shows – then you should include that information here.
- Awards and Grants – if you’ve received any awards or grants for your work, provide a detailed list of the organizations that have awarded you the recognition, and be specific about what that entailed.
- Residencies – have you completed any artist residencies? If so, list where and when, and what the fruit of the residency was, with a detailed explanation of the project.
Structuring Your Resume
Now that you have identified all the various sections that should be included on your resume, how should you structure it? How should you organize your experience for maximum effectiveness? As Swarts noted, galleries are often most interested in where an artist has exhibited their work and whether or not they’ve previously worked with a gallery and sold their work.
“For us, it’s more about having some depth to an artist’s experience,” he says. “Has the artist been at art fairs, shown at other galleries? Have they exhibited somewhere that carries a big name? I’m much more interested in where they’ve shown and what their marketplace is, rather than their educational background.” Interestingly, Swarts notes that collectors have their own wish list when it comes to a resume or CV. “For collectors, they mostly want to hear that they’ve been at a museum or auction house,” Swarts says.
Swarts comments are useful when strategizing your artist resume layout: You’ll want to lead with certain items depending on where you’ll be sending your materials. For example, if you’re sending your work and resume to a gallery, be sure to lead with past exhibitions and participation at art fairs. If you’re selling directly to a collector, (or intend to develop a direct artist-to-collector business), consider that these buyers typically assign the most weight to museum collections or auction house sales. Therefore, when submitting to galleries, you may want to structure it as follows:
As you can see, this layout includes the standard information first: the artist’s name, their location, and contact information, with requisite professional email addresses and websites. Then the artist statement is included, followed by the artist’s exhibition history first to appeal to a gallery or institution.
Alternatively, if using your artist resume for your own commercial purposes, such as a direct sell to collectors, you may want to organize as such:
In this resume example, the artist leads with the standard personal information but flips their exhibition experience to lead with their client and gallery list to appeal to private collectors.
If you’re an emerging artist and don’t have a lot of information to include regarding exhibitions or other special recognition, lead with your educational background, and any shows or projects you have personally organized.
Lastly, consider the importance of having visual samples that coincide with your resume. “It definitely helps to be more visual,” says Swarts. “If an artist resume lists that their work has been in an exhibition or in a private or corporate collection, it’s great to have images as visual evidence.” If you’re submitting a digital artist CV, consider exploring platforms that allow you to attach artwork portfolios to your exhibitions or experience. If you printing your resume on paper, consider organizing this information in a bound format with the visual images submitted as an additional attachment.
Now that you understand the importance of writing an artist resume, be sure to update yours and keep it updated as it changes or evolves. Don’t be shy to present these materials to potential collectors or other interested parties, and always remember to keep them polished. Most importantly, remember that your artist resume should be authentic and truthful about the scope of your work.