Writing an Artist Curriculum Vitae

In the collection of documents an artist writes about their history and experiences, the Curriculum Vitae, or CV for short, is by far the longest and most complex. The CV is generally only used when the artist is applying for a position within academia and is meant to hold a full listing of everything art-related the artist has done. It is meant to represent the full life experience of the artist with all of their awards and accolades.

Because this document is generally reviewed by the highest echelon of the art world, this is the place to be intense with the usage of art vocabulary. This is the world these people live and breathe. They want a sense that the artist shares that same knowledge and experience.

In many ways the CV is like an artist’s resume, only on steroids. Rather than listing only selected shows, all shows should be presented. A full bibliography of works and mentions should be included. If the CV stretches on beyond four pages, even at 10-point type with one-inch margins, then it might be time to cull out some of the minor entries. But, other than that, everything should be here. The idea is to err on the side of completeness rather than brevity.

For an artist, if only just for their own information, they should always maintain a CV even if they don’t intend to apply to academia at the moment. One never knows. And it can be notoriously challenging to remember all the shows and exhibits one has been in once it’s ten years down the road and memory becomes a bit iffy. Track it now. Keep it in a list. That way it’s available when and if you need it.

It can even be helpful when crafting a resume, to start with the CV and “hone down.” That way the artist can look at all their entries and decide which are important enough to include in the resume.

Just as with a resume, the key sections are:

  • Name (address etc.)
  • Education (art related only)
  • Awards
  • Exhibitions
  • Commissions (if any)
  • Collections (if any, and only notable locations)
  • Bibliography (external publications which mention / feature you)
  • Publications (things you have written)
  • Teaching / Lectures you’ve done
  • References (if needed)

Within each section the items should be listed in reverse chronological order. The latest items should always be at the top.

Most of the time when a gallery proposal asks you to submit a CV they actually want for you to submit an artist’s resume. They don’t want to see every single small show you’ve been in since you were fourteen (assuming, of course, you are fifteen). They want a highlight summary that is about a page long. So give that an educated guess when you submit. It’s better to have your submission shine with the key features rather than bog them down in minutiae.

Finally, proofread, proofread, proofread! If any document needs to be 100% free of typos and grammatical issues, this one needs to be. It is representing your ability to interact at the highest level in the art world. Enlist editors to ensure it shines.


Be sure to read about all of the:

Six Essential Artist Documents