Write your Artist CV like a pro - Hacks & Rules (Template Included).
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 blogpost 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” for 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 following questions in mind:
Why do I apply?
Which accomplishments are most valuable in this context?
For example, when you update your CV on your website you can select the most relevant elements from your Master CV.
First some professional hacks, before we dive into the rules!
HACK #1 Layout
The reader must be able to understand the structure of your CV at first glance. These tips will help you achieving that:
Structure your CV in categories ( see also below: RULE #2)
Put your categories in Bold or UPPERCASE to make them easy to see
Choose an easy to read font, like Helvetica or Arial
Pick a common font size, between10 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 out all categories like a pro.
HACK #2 Consistency is golden
It’s crucial to work consistently! Always apply the same systematic way of structuring data. Besides all the tips and tricks in this blogpost, you have to understand that consistency is equally important. It can reveal a lot about 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 a 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 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 receivers end when opening the file.
RULE #1 Chronology
Always put your entries in reverse chronological order with the most recent on 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 built up in 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 which can usually be found in an online CV or Catalog Biographies is:
First Name and Last Name of the Artist,
year and place of birth, place of living and working
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 like:
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 an 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 the 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 your 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 shortcut to this section.
To build content with confidence, just keep in mind the following rules:
Usually the exhibitions are split up into solo and group exhibitions. Starting 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 app-lies 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 you 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 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.)