A CV or curriculum vitae is an overview of your artistic professional history and achievements. Although it looks similar to a resume, it contains different elements which are only related to your artistic professional practice.
One mistake emerging artists often make in writing their CVs is trying to oversell their work. Less is more. Your CV should be neatly organized, and only include information pertinent to your artistic career.
What should you include on a CV? Here is where how to compose one in 10 steps:
1. Personal details.
Often, more established artists will keep it simple. This is because their CV is usually referenced as a biography rather than a resume.
Damian Hirst (b. 1965, UK)
However, you can include contact information if you are sending out your CV to galleries in the hopes that they will reply:
Either of these formats is appropriate for an artist’s CV. Just keep in mind that you should only include your website if it directly relates to your artistic practice.
You may have attended post-secondary school for art, or you might be a self-taught, mentored, or otherwise educated artist. Generally speaking, this section of a CV relates to institutional education specifically in the field of visual arts. If you do have post-secondary education in the arts field, include the school(s), the year(s) that you graduated, and the degree(s):
University of British Columbia, Master of Fine Arts, 2009
Emily Carr University, Bachelor of Fine Arts, 2005
If you do not have a degree in the visual arts field, fear not. This section of the CV is not a pre-requisite for exhibitions or gallery representation. The only thing to note is that you should not put down any other type of education (high school graduation, degree in business management), unless it very directly relates to the artwork that you make. Leaving this section off of your CV is perfectly acceptable.
Beginning with your most recent, you should list your exhibitions in a manner similar to this:
2011 Title of Show, Museum of Modern Art, NY
2010 I’ve been showing a lot lately, Galerie Espace, Montréal
If you have a large number of exhibitions, you can split them into two or more categories: solo exhibitions, group exhibitions, and even duo exhibitions. This helps define in what capacity your work was shown (you don’t want to undersell your solo show at the MoMA.)
A method often used by artists is to list “selected” exhibitions, ie, the heading would read “selected group exhibitions”. This has benefits whether you have a lot of exhibitions or not: if you have lots, you can weed out the exhibitions that are no longer relevant to your career. If you don’t have a lot of exhibitions, you are assuring the reader that they are not looking at a short list, but rather your most relevant history.
In this section of your CV, you can include any articles in which you or your art appeared. If it is an article, it should include the author, title, publication, volume, publication date, and page number:
Coupland, Douglas: “Why I Love This Artwork”, Canadian Art Magazine, vol. 12, February 2011, p. 55-60
If your work appeared on the cover of a publication, you can format your information like this:
Canadian Art Magazine, Cover, vol. 12, February 2011
If writing about your artwork or your artwork itself appears in a book, the formatting should read:
Schwabsky, Barry (Compiler), Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting, Phiadon Press 2004, p. 78
For further information and other examples of MLA format, there any many resources online. As an example, here is SFU’s citation guide for MLA style.
Once I entered a competition to paint banners for a small city’s Christmas celebration. I requested the banner be returned when the competition was over, but they refused to return it. Now I put “City of _____” under the public collections section of my CV. We both win!
Generally, the “collections” portion of your CV is to list public institutions which own your artwork. This could be museums, corporate collections, or even municipalities or agencies. They can simply be listed under the heading collections:
The Vancouver Art Gallery
The Canada Council Art Bank
The Colart Collection
If you only have artwork in private collections and you wish to include this section on your CV, you should not list the name of the collector unless 1. they are well-known as important collectors of art, and 2. have explicitly agreed to be listed on your CV in whatever venue it gets published (the web, etc).
If several people own your artwork in private collections and you would like to note that, you can list them like this:
Private collection, Calgary AB
Private collection, Vancouver, BC
Just don’t go to overboard with the list– if you really have lots, you’ll look more understated and impressive by inserting something like this:
Works held in private collections in Canada, the United States, Germany, and New Zealand.
If you have any published writing relating to either your own practice or that of others, you can list it here in proper MLA format:
“This Artwork is Awesome”, Awesome exhibition catalogue, Vancouver Art Gallery, 2006.
The above points are the most common and usually the most notable elements which artists include on their CVs. However, depending on your practice, there may be a number of other professional and artistic points of interest to list. Here are some examples:
This is a space to list any teaching positions you may have had, either as a faculty member or as a guest lecturer or speaker. You should only include those related specifically to your practice or to visual arts:
2009, Guest lecturer, Emily Carr University
2007, Sessional instructor, SFU
8. Curatorial projects
If, as well as being an artist you have also undertaken curatorial projects (as so many artists seem to do now), you can list them simply as the exhibition itself, or, add on a brief explaination:
2011, “Drawings”, Richmond Art Gallery
2010, “Paintings”, Or Gallery, co-curated by Damian Hirst
9. Awards and Grants
Some artists choose to list awards and / or grants they have received. If you decide to include this, the list should all be specifically related to your artistic practice, unless it is extremely notable, such as the Nobel Peace Prize:
2011, Canada Council grant
2010, BC Arts Council grant
Artist’s residencies you may have attended are good to include on your CV as they show a dedication to your practice and to your professional development:
2010, Studio residency, School of Visual Arts, New York
One of the best ways to start writing your CV is to see how other artists do it. In addition to the categories listed above, there are many different professional practices or ways of organizing your information. Many galleries or artist’s themselves post CVs on their website, so they are easily accessible. A few to check out: