A CV or Curriculum Vitae is not to be confused with a “biography” or an “artist statement”. But what exactly is the difference between a CV, biography, and artist statement? I dedicated an entire blog post to that question here.
Here we will focus on your Curriculum Vitae (CV) which summarizes your professional activities.
You can immediately recognize a CV by its bullet point layout. For an artist, exhibitions are the eye-catchers of this document! But there’s so much more to share! Achievements are listed in categories such as Personal info, Education, Awards, Exhibitions, Publications, Bibliography, Commissions, and Collections that acquired your artworks.
A good practice is to make one “Master CV” as your reference. This includes all of your accomplishments without editing. Make it a routine task to keep this “Master CV” up to date. Each time you have to submit a CV for a specific occasion, this is what you start with. Make a copy of your “Master CV”, and optimize it with the following questions in mind:
- Why am I applying for this opportunity?
- Which accomplishments are the most relevant for this application?
Before we dive into the rules, here are some professional hacks first:
HACK #1: Layout
The reader must be able to understand the structure of your CV at a first glance. Here are the tips to help you achieve that:
Structure your CV in categories ( see also below: RULE #2)
Put your categories in bold or UPPERCASE to make them more visible
Choose an easy to read font, like Helvetica or Arial
Pick a common font size, between 10 and 12 pt.
Use bold formatting to highlight the years
Use Italic formatting for exhibition and catalog titles
To help you out, you can download our CV template here.
Keep on reading if you want to learn how to fill in all categories like a pro!
HACK #2: Consistency
It is crucial to be consistent! Always use the same systematic way of structuring information. Consistency is vital in showcasing your professional working methods.
HACK #3: Additions
If you publish your CV online, it can be interesting for your readers to know when the CV was last updated. You can enter this info at the top of the page in a slightly smaller font size.
You can ask people not to use your CV for publications by adding the following line to the header of your CV: “For reference only and not for publication purposes. For more information, please contact … .”
HACK #4: Proofreading, of course!
Ask a friend to do some proofreading before sending out or publishing your CV. As you have written the content yourself, your brain plays tricks on you which makes it hard to see your own mistakes. Asking a friend to proofread your CV is a must!
HACK #5: Format
Although you make your CV in a text editor, such as MS Word, you should always send your CV as a pdf. This format protects it from further editing and a pdf is your best bet to avoid technical issues at the receiver's end when opening the file.
Now let's dig into the rules:
RULE #1 Chronology
Always put your entries in reverse chronological order with the most recent ones on the top.
Collections: ordered alphabetically
Education: institutions where you got a degree on top in reverse chronological order, followed by institutions attended without earning a degree
RULE #2 Categories
A CV is split up into categories. The order and specific naming of the categories can vary, although “personal info” and “education” usually come first. The following order is common practice:
Awards / Grants
Publications (as Author)
Professional Experience (Teaching, Lectures, ... )
How to master the categories?
The minimum required information that can usually be found in an online CV or Catalog Biographies is:
First name and last name of the artist
Birth year and place
An online CV should not include contact details if those can be found in the contact section of the website.
In case you use the CV for an application, it’s recommended to include contact information such as:
Email address (never use an unprofessionally looking one!)
Phone number (beginning with your country’s international code, e.g. for Belgium +32)
Keep in mind that you list your earned degrees in reverse chronological order. Don’t be shy and include your honors too! You can include attended colleges without earning the degree underneath the list of earned degrees.
Awards / Grants
You often find the "Awards" section immediately after "Education". Especially if the artist received many! "Grants" and "Artist Residencies" can also be mentioned here. In case you don't have that much content for this section, it’s perfectly fine to put this category lower, after "Exhibitions", for instance.
Residencies can have an important influence on an artist’s professional career. List them in reverse chronological order. Mention the year, name, city, and country of the residency. The best placement for this category on a CV can vary in the course of your career. When you are just starting out, it can bring an important added value, so give it the necessary attention. If you have accomplished a lot of important exhibitions, commissions, etc., it may be more relevant to put this category lower (e.g. near "Professional Experience").
As an artist, this is the most important part of your CV. Most readers will immediately jump to this section. To build the content with confidence, just keep in mind the following rules:
Usually, the exhibitions are split up into solo and group exhibitions. Start with your solo shows, followed by group shows.
It’s not mandatory to include each exhibition. If you make a selection it’s common practice to title the section “Selected Solo Exhibitions”. The same applies to “Selected Group Exhibitions”.
If you are just starting out, it might be wise to put group and solo exhibitions together. This is common practice for starters. Just make sure to put “solo exhibition” consequently before the exhibition title to distinguish your solo shows from the others with consistency. For example:
Solo Exhibition Falling Figures, Gemeentemuseum (GEM), The Hague, NL
A biennial or triennial is a group exhibition. After the “year”, you mention the “title” of the exhibition, followed by the “edition number and name of the biennial / triennial”, “city” and the “country”. For example:
2019 May You Live in Interesting Times, 58th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy
Write out the names of venues completely and add the abbreviation right behind it between brackets. For example:
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
- Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.)
The exhibition venue and its city should always be mentioned. It’s optional to add the country. You can choose to write the country’s full name or as a 2-letter abbreviation, e.g. DE for Germany. If you choose the latter, always make sure to check its correctness.
If you have an exhibition in the USA, you have to mention the state instead of the USA. For example: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY.
If your work takes part in a collection display, you can mention this between square brackets after the exhibition title. Make square brackets by the key combination SHIFT + option ⌥ + (. For example:
2020 Fading Horizon [collection display], Peterfreund Foundation, Brussels, Belgium.
If there’s a catalog being published on the occasion of the exhibition, you add “[Exh.cat.]” at the end of your entry. For example:
2020 Vanishing Points, Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), Dublin, IE [Exh.cat.].
Depending on the type of art you’re making, you may add other categories here such as Screenings, Performances, Curatorial Projects, or Collaborative Projects, … . If you have doubts about categorizing your exhibitions, take a look at other trustworthy CVs by artists who are working in the same field or niche. It’s always inspiring!
Unlike the other CV sections (which are in a reverse chronology), you use alphabetical order here! Just list the collections from A to Z.
There’s no need to include your Family and Friends Fan Club. Keep in mind that it’s a section to impress your readers so keep this space for meaningful entries. Be aware that some private collections may not want to be listed here. You should always ask permission and get confirmation if and how they want to be mentioned.
Publications vs. Bibliography
Experience taught me that these are the most confusing sections in terms of applying the academic rules. It’s hard to find consistency once you start comparing CVs of leading artists. No wonder many galleries exclude the bibliography and publication section from the artist CVs on their websites. It seems very difficult to publish these sections with consistency.
“Bibliography”, sometimes also referred to as “Media & Bibliography”, contains anything that is written and published about you and your art and is not written by yourself.
“Publications” can be a confusing term when you isolate it from a context. But in the context of your CV, it mentions what you have published yourself (e.g. texts you’ve written yourself). A less confusing and more specified naming for this category could be “Publications as author”. I advise mentioning it like that to avoid unnecessary confusion.
Important Rule: in a CV, keep in mind the following:
Publications = What’s been published by yourself (e.g. texts you’ve written yourself)
Bibliography = What’s been published about your art and is not written by you.
You can split up these sections into subcategories:
Monographs (only for Bibliography)
Solo Exhibition Catalogs (only for Bibliography)
Selected Group Exhibition Catalogs (only for Bibliography)
Selected Catalog Texts (only for Bibliography)
One can argue whether Artist Books, which are works of art in the format of a book, should be listed in the “Publications” or in the “Bibliography” section. Either way, it’s advised to make it a subcategory “Artist Books” or a separate category.
The trusted academic bibliography always puts the Author’s Last Name up front and respects the Alphabetical order based on the Author’s Last Name. This is not the most relevant way of displaying monographs and exhibition catalogs. While the academic style is certainly correct, it’s more conventional in the artworld to apply the following rules:
Monographs and Exhibition and Catalogs:
Put your entries in a reverse chronological order (most recent on top)
Start with the Title in Italic font formatting
For exhibition catalogs:
Add the exhibition venue and its city between brackets
Optional: add the country (complete or its 2-letter abbreviation)
If the exhibition catalog relates to several venues (e.g. for a traveling exhibition), write down all the venues.
end the line with “[Exh.cat.]”
Mention the author(s), and eventually the editor(s), translator(s) (if relevant) as follows: Text by “First Name Author” followed by “Last Name Author”, edited by … , translated by … . If there are multiple authors, stick with the order as listed in the catalog
Mention the publisher. Although academic bibliographies mention the “Publisher’s City” first, it’s common practice for the artist CV to put the “Publisher's Name” first, followed by the “Publisher’s City” and “Year of Publication”. For exhibition catalogs, the publisher can be the exhibition venue.
Comparing many artist CVs, I must admit that the order of the information can vary from one to the other. My advice is to keep it readable and consistent!
Academic example vs. common practice example:
Academic Style Example:
Smith, Vera, When Light Becomes Matter (BOZAR, Brussels), Brussels: DigDotPrinters, 2016.
Van Damme, Chris, Over the Rainbow (Palace of Art, Dublin), Dublin: Art Print Publishers, 2018.
Artist CV Example:
Over the Rainbow (Palace of Art, Dublin), Text by Chris Van Damme, Art Print Publishers, Dublin, 2018. [Exh.cat.].
When Light Becomes Matter (BOZAR, Brussels), Interview with the artist by Vera Smith, DigDotPrinters, Brussels, 2016. [Exh.cat.].
For “Text and Article” entries, it’s common practice to put the Author(s), followed by the 'Title' between quotation marks.
Selected catalog Texts:
Last Name Author, First Name Author, 'Article Title' in: Book Title, Name Publisher, City Publisher, year, page(s).
Jackson, Lizzy, 'The Magical Snapshots of Zoe Taylor' in: Purple Skies, Color books, London, 2015, pp.29-34.
Selected Printed Articles:
Last Name Author, First Name Author, 'Title Article', Name Magazine, number, year, page(s).
Levis, Laura, 'The Lifestyle of Berlin Based Artist Jurgen Turner', Sunday Art Magazine, 3, 2019, p.34.
Last Name Author, First Name Author, 'Article Title', Newspaper Name, Publication, Date: page(s).
De Winter, Nico, 'The Deepest Blue', The New York Times, 3 January 2018, pp.12-34.
Selected Online Articles:
Last Name Author, First Name Author (if known), 'Page Title', name website, publication date (if known) or last access date. DOI: if available, or URL.
8. Professional Experience (Teaching, Lectures, …)
This category should be edited depending on your CV’s specific purpose. What’s your goal? What’s important to include here? Apply the reverse chronological order and include all relevant information. Starting with indicating the duration, the type of experience and the context/institution. If applicable, end with relevant details in a very short description.
With these tips and tricks you can finally write your professional artist CV and get it out there with confidence!
Please note that amy and its team take no responsibility for any legal disputes or other that might arise from using the information in this blog. It serves purely as an example and should not be interpreted as any sort of legal advice.