An artist’s resume is designed to help workers in creative fields, such as fine art photographers and sculptors, promote themselves as artists.
Most of the resume advice on this website assumes that you are a more-or-less traditional job seeker applying for fairly typical jobs. But, if you are an oil painter, for example, your primary source of income might be getting your paintings into commercial galleries and nonprofit galleries to be sold, or selling them yourself through your studio or website. That is what an artist’s resume is designed to do, and we are going to show you how to write an effective one.
A resume header, preferably including your studio information.
The typical resume header includes one’s full name, mailing address, phone number or numbers, and e-mail address.
An artist’s resume should include all of the above, but preferably also a studio address and studio phone number. A website is also often included on an artist’s resume, although this should obviously be for professional websites only.
Higher education details.
The typical artist’s resume doesn’t have a “Professional Experience” section in the traditional sense, since 9-to-5 jobs are often not particularly relevant to galleries and buyers, so the education section gets prime real estate.
If you are writing this type of resume, list every academic degree you’ve earned, noting any special honors you received. If your major is relevant to the art world, include it. You can also list the periods of study after the list of degrees you’ve earned, but keep in mind that this could basically reveal your age.
Grants, fellowships, awards, residencies, and honors.
This is pretty self-explanatory. On an artist’s resume, it’s important to establish one’s reputation, and listing grants, fellowships, awards, residencies, and honors certainly helps.
Relevant solo exhibitions.
This section should be devoted to your one-person shows and solo shows. You should give the title of the show, name of the gallery, the city where the show took place, and the year of the exhibition.
Now, just like a standard resume, an artist’s resume should be tailored to fit the intended audience.
Edward Winkleman, an art dealer from New York, offers some insights on what gallery owners want to see on an artist’s resume:
“What I’m looking for is a track record that makes sense to me given what I think I know about this artist. What I’m also looking for is a track record that makes sense for our gallery. In other words, if an artist has only exhibited at blue chip spaces, I’ll wonder why they’re now interested in our emerging space.”
What if you have a wide variety of solo exhibitions that aren’t all necessarily relevant to your audience? Well, do the same thing you would if you had a wide variety of jobs on a standard resume: get selective.
“You can get away with any combination you choose by using the header ‘Selected Solo Exhibitions,’” advises Winkleman.
Just as a few relevant positions look better on a standard resume than pages and pages of employment history, a few relevant or prestigious solo shows look better on an artist’s resume than a huge laundry list of one-person exhibitions.
Relevant group exhibitions.
This is where you would include your group shows, using the same format as you used for your solo shows.
Now, this is an area where you have to be careful, warns Winkleman.
“Believe it or not, too many group exhibitions can be a negative, suggesting the artist is all over the place and probably doesn’t have a body of work for a solo exhibition that hasn’t already been seen in bits and pieces. It can scream ‘Overexposure.’ ‘Selected Group Exhibitions” is a better idea.’”
It’s the same message: always customize! This is, by the way, a reason to weigh whether you really want to mention open submission shows, too.
“I consider open submission exhibitions a negative here,” says Winkleman. “Also, exhibitions in restaurants and the like should be left out. Gallerists are snobbish about the context of where art is appropriately seen. You can dislike that about them, but you shouldn’t ignore it in preparing your bio for one of them.”
Public, private, or corporate collections.
Has your art been featured in a permanent collection? This is where you can list the name of the collection or institution, along with the city and state (or country) where it is located.
Although this is a fairly common element of an artist’s resume, Winkleman warns that gallerists might consider it “only impressive if the collectors are well known.” He recommends that an artist limit it “to museums and collectors with international reputations.”
Also, make sure you aren’t stepping on any toes when it comes to listing private collectors. Always ask whether it’s OK to list their names. Some private collectors want to keep a low profile to avoid being targeted by robbers.
This could include articles, catalogs, publications, online articles, and blog reviews about your work. List the title of each piece, the name of the publication, and date it was published or uploaded online.
Focus on prestigious inclusions, like books, national newspapers, magazines, and major catalogs. Clearly, you want to focus on positive reviews and publications about your work.
This section could also include articles you have published, as long as you can make the difference between reviews written by you and about you clear.
Remember, the artist’s resume has the same basic function as the typical worker’s resume!
Again, like a typical resume, an artist’s resume is supposed to be a powerful, persuasive advertisement, not a comprehensive personal history.
Now, keep in mind that you may occasionally see other categories, such as commissions, related professional activity, current gallery representation, or teaching experience on an artist’s resume. These can be useful, but only if your intended audience, whether it be a gallery owner or a program director, would actually be interested in the information provided.
An artist’s resume is often only one or two pages, like a standard resume, so you don’t have room for extra fluff. Hit them with your most impressive, relevant credentials right away and leave them reaching for the phone to find out more.