Most galleries request artists to include a curriculum vitae as part of their portfolio when applying for representation. 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 gallery or exhibition.
The curriculum vitae is a living document and should be updated with every new show, new award or change in personal information. You should keep a detailed history of your experience but then pare it down to what is relevant for the gallery or exhibit you are applying to.
Below are the most important components of a CV that will tell your “story” most efficiently and effectively. The CV is ideally 1-2 pages in length and will highlight your most important experiences and accomplishments.
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.
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 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. It’s recommended to list 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You are your biggest promoter, it’s important to have something the reader can look at and evaluate. Being organized and detailed with your communication shows a level of professionalism that most galleries will appreciate.