Writing an Artist Resume

An artist resume is different from an artist’s statement and an artist’s CV. What is an artist resume about, and how does one write it?

Lisa Shea Artist's Resume
Lisa Shea Artist’s Resume

Where an artist’s statement is meant to be read by viewers of the art, often at a gallery, the artist’s resume is typically what is used when submitting art to a gallery as part of an exhibition proposal. Its intended audience is the curator for that exhibit. Its purpose is to convince that curator that the artist is worthy of and solid enough to be showcased in the gallery. So where an artist’s statement should use simple words that anyone can understand, the artist’s resume is where the artist should pull out their full artistic vocabulary to prove they are experienced in the world of art and a peer of the other competitors who are vying for this gallery space.

Just like any other business resume, an artist’s resume should be updated yearly or so to contain the latest information. It should be a living document which is regularly updated to stay fresh.

A resume contains a selection of the artist’s experiences and works – it is not meant to be a CV, which is a complete life listing. So rather than list every single show an artist has ever participated in, a resume should cull it down to the important highlights.

A traditional artist resume has several sections. Each has a bold heading so that the entire list can be easily scanned. In each category, the items should be listed in reverse chronological order. That is, the most recent (and to the reviewer generally the most important) items should be on top.

These 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)

If a given section is empty, it should be left off. The purpose of the resume is to showcase the artist’s talents and experience. If the information isn’t art related, leave that off. An artist shouldn’t list that they got a degree in journalism. They should list that they took art classes at the local museum.

When an artist is just getting started they might need to list minor items to fill the resume out to be a page long. As they get more established in the world of art they might need to trim down their listings to only the key ones to stay within one or two pages. The resume as a whole – at 10 point type minimum – should remain at one or two pages. The person receiving this list needs a sense of the artist’s worth – not detail into every single thing the artist has ever done.

Just as with business resumes, the key is to be expressive while also being wholly accurate. In our modern internet world a person who stretches the truth is easily found out – and that deception can have ripple effects far beyond this one application. Always be honest.

Also, readability is far more important than style. The curator probably has a mound of these to go through, to figure out which one to accept. An artist should use 12 point font if at all possible and keep the layout simple. The information’s meaning should shine off the page. The curator shouldn’t get a headache trying to read it.

Note that sometimes an art gallery says they want a CV when actually what they mean is they want a resume. An artist should use some common sense here. If it’s a local gallery, they probably want a highlight of the artist’s activities rather than a massive tome listing every single place the artist has ever been shown in. However, if it’s a featured exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the artist should go ahead and send them the full CV. In gold ink :).

Here is an example resume. Note that personal information such as the year and location of birth have been removed. In an actual resume the artist would want to include that information.

Lisa Shea Artist’s Resume (PDF)

Be sure to read about all of the:

Six Essential Artist Documents