For any job application, submission, or exhibition plan, the working artist must have a resume or a CV to present. The letters “CV” stand for “curriculum vitae” (sometimes just called a vita) which translates loosely to “course of life.” The artist CV tells a reader at a glance what you have done in the past, whether it includes previous exhibitions, employment, awards, etc., and lets them decide whether you are the right fit for the job/exhibition.
In short, the CV is a single-page summary of your most important experiences and accomplishments.
Often confused with a CV, a resume is a typical form that is used for job applications. It explains your skills and experience, and the main focus is on personal qualifications, such as education and work history. A CV, in contrast, is more of a record of accomplishments such as exhibitions, publications, and awards.
For most situations, a CV is best for an artist, as it conforms to a format that lends itself well to displaying an exhibition history. For those unfamiliar with the artist’s CV format, we’re going to break down all of the information that you need and the best techniques for organizing your CV.
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, we’ve already written a guide for that.
As we mentioned in our guide, 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.
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.
555-555-5555 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.artistwebsite.com | 123 Street Name
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:
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.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The ideal CV length is 1 to 2 pages.[/pullquote]
There are two ways to go about this section, and they both depend on the length of your exhibition history.
- If you have participated in fewer than 15 shows, include your entire exhibition history and label this section as “Exhibition History.”
- 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
Try to fit the information to 1-2 lines on the page. For example:
2018 – Agora Gallery “Name of Exhibition” 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.
Next up is a list of institutions and collections in which your work is held. An institution would be a museum or school. A public 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
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]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.[/pullquote]
The entry can be arranged like so:
Artwork Title. Public Art Museum. Cityville, United States. Donated 2015.
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 the 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.
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
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. It’s a great idea to have one “master list” that includes all of your information. Then, you can pare it down when you need to send it out.
To view an artist CV Template click here