How-to Guide: The Artist’s CV

Artists often struggle with how best to present their professional resume. It’s grant application time here at the Arts Council and we see artist resumes written in many different formats. Some are in narrative form which makes it difficult to read while others are so short they don’t give enough information. There is no hard and fast rule on writing a good resume, but there are a few things that can help make it clear and easily understood.

Whether it’s for a grant application, an exhibition proposal or job application, this 1-2 page document needs to summarize your most important experiences and accomplishments. It needs to present your history in an easy-to-read format that allows jurors, grant panels or curators to see at a glance what has shaped your career. Work towards having one master document that is comprehensive and includes all of your information. Then, edit it for the specific purpose or audience when you use it.

Agora Gallery in New York City has put together one of the best articles we’ve seen on writing your professional resume. It outlines very specifically what should be included and how the information should be presented.

We’re providing snippets here but you should read the full article for details. Head over to their website for a downloadable template that shows you how it should look. This was originally published Dec. 22, 2015 on the


Artist CV  Format 

The ideal CV length is 1-2 pages. If you’ve been working internationally for over 20 years, you can certainly push it to three, but most galleries and competitions are really looking for 1-2 pages at most. Remember, the CV is a summary, not a biography. If you want info on how to write an artist biography, [they’ve] already written a guide for that.

As we mentioned in our guide, How To Write An Artist Statement, you should keep everything consistent across the board with your submissions. That includes font and style. If you bold certain items (like section heads) or italicize others (like titles of shows), be sure to be consistent throughout the entire CV.

Many elements of your CV will be lists (of exhibitions, awards, publications), and it will be tempting to bullet or number these lists. Do not use bullet points or numbers. These can be distracting and confusing, and will pull attention away from the information that you are trying to convey.

[The article goes on to itemize the individual sections to be included on the resume with specifics on formatting:]

Header

At the header of any CV should be your contact information. Include your name, e-mail, website, phone number, and primary address. Give your reader every option to contact you; the more information, the better.

Your name should be the very first thing that any reviewer should see, either centered or aligned to the left of the page. You can adjust the type size to make it larger than the rest of your contact information. At a glance, your name is the first thing to pop out at people.

Contact information should follow on the next line, aligned the same way that your name was aligned at the header. It can be smaller than your main text, to leave more room for your information.

ARTIST NAME
555-555-5555 | artist@website.com | www.artistwebsite.com | 123 Street Name

Education

If you have formal training as an artist, such as a BFA, MFA, or a design degree, be sure to list your education next on the page. People like to see what you studied, where, how long ago, and who your teachers were. If you went to a well-known or prestigious school, this can often be a great highlight of the CV. These items look best in chronological order, with the most recent at the top.

The education section should look like this:

EDUCATION:
Name of School — Degree Achieved — Year Achieved
Name of Other School –Degree Achieved— Year Achieved

Feel free to edit the styling, just make sure that the information is clear and readable.

If you are a self-taught artist, you can skip this section. There is no do-or-die requirement for the information you need to include in an artist CV, so you can leave off things you do not feel apply to you. On the other end, you can add achievements that you feel need their own category. Regardless, if you can’t fill a section adequately, don’t include it. Having a blank header implies a lack of experience, even if you do have experience in other sections.

Exhibition History

There are two ways to go about this section, and they both depend on the length of your exhibition history.

    1. If you have participated in fewer than 15 shows, include yourentire exhibition history and label this section as “Exhibition History.”
    2. If you have more than 15 shows, include a selected exhibition list. Title this section “Selected Exhibition History.”

The longer your career, the more likely it is you’ll want to include selected exhibitions, as too much information will bog down your CV and lessen the impact of each entry. That’s why we recommend 15-20 shows as the maximum. When you find your CV filling up with more than 15-20 entries, parse it down to keep only the most notable galleries or shows.

Solo Shows: If you have more than 5 solo exhibitions, then separate them into their own category. For fewer than 5 solo exhibitions, include them with the rest of your exhibition history, but make sure to clearly label them as solo shows.

For any organization style, you must have this essential information for each exhibition entry:

Year (always put your most recent exhibition first!)
Gallery/Show/Competition Name
Title of Show (looks best in quotation marks or italics)
City, Country/City, State

Try to fit the information to 1-2 lines on the page. For example:

2015 – Agora Gallery “The Persistence of Form” New York City, NY. USA.

You can put the information in whatever order you think will make sense to your reader, but remember, it must be clear and consistent. A reader has to know when, what, and where your experiences happened, and the template above fills in all the blanks. The more information you give per entry, the easier it is for the reader to do a search and find out more, but just keep your entries to 1-2 lines max per show.

Collections

Next up is a list of institutions and collections in which your work is held. An institution would be a museum or school. Apublic collection is a collection that is not necessarily a museum but can be viewed by the public, such as in a government office. This is opposed to a private collection, wherein the works are held by an individual buyer in their own home or private place of business. If your work is displayed in a coffee shop in your town, that counts as a public collection.

The information you should have for each entry is:

  • Name of Piece
  • Name of Collection/Institution
  • Location (City, Country)
  • Year Acquired or Donated

Do not use bullet points or numbers. These can be distracting and confusing, and will pull attention away from the information that you are trying to convey.

The entry can be arranged like so:

Artwork Title. Public Art Museum. Cityville, United States. Donated 2015.

Publications

Following this section  is a list of the publications that you’ve been featured in. This can be any publication, big or small, but if you’re only including a select few entries then be sure to favor the “best looking” publications. Print media is still favored over web for these kinds of things and will look better on your CV.

Just like your exhibitions, you’ll want to list the most recent publication at the top, and the rest in reverse chronological order beneath.

Your entries should look something like this:

“Title of Article.” Title of Publication. Volume number and publication date. Page(s) of article.

Awards

Next, you can list any awards you’ve won for your art or art-related work. This can include any awards you may have earned from art history research, art teaching, or charitable outreach.

The format is similar to publication entries.

Title of Award. First/Second/Third Place*. Awarding Organization. Year.

*You do not need to include this if it is not applicable to the type of award you won.

Affiliations & Memberships

The final section will feature arts or arts-related organizations of which you are a member. It can be anything from an international group of artists to a small arts circle in your community.

You can easily list these entries like so:

Member of the Following Organizations:
Art Group International, Joined 2012
Littletown Painting Circle, Founding Member

Footer

At the very bottom will be your footer, in which you can include the name and information of any gallery/ies that you are represented by at the time you publish your CV. In typical footer-style, this looks nice centered and a few points smaller than the rest of the document.

It should look something like this:

Current Representation: Gallery Name, City, (State), Country. Website and/or phone number.

That’s the list for a CV, from head to toe – or ‘header’ to ‘footer,’ more aptly. Remember that a curriculum vitae is a living document and should be updated with every new show, new award or change in personal information.


Go to the Agora site to see the complete article as they published it as well as other excellent tutorials. You can also download the example resume to see exactly how a professional CV or resume should be done.

Read the full article on the Agora Gallery site


The Arts Council first published this news blog post in January, 2016 and updated it January, 2017.

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