I know, I know, the work should sell itself right? Not realistic… unfortunately. It is imperative now more than ever that an artist have clear, concise written materials that explain and engage the viewer. With the massive amount of art on the market you have to convince a potential buyer that your work is important and they need it, this means they have to have an emotional connection to it. Therefore, the more they can learn about the work, and you, the better your sales will be.
Artist Statement/ Biography/ CV
These are the three staples that I believe every artist must have—and they are not one document they are all completely separate and very different.
Your artist statement is your explanation of your oeuvre, a body of work, or an individual piece. Some artists will have one umbrella statement, while others have many crafted for specific uses. I recommend having one explaining your work as a whole, one for each body of work or series you create, maybe one for each piece you make. The more you have prepared the better off you will be.
You may have multiple versions of each too, directed to specific groups, but the most important is the one directed at potential clients so there are some keys to remember:
- Use the first person, this is your statement so do not speak about yourself in the third person. It is impersonal and honestly kind of annoying.
- Keep it short, at the most 2-3 paragraphs totaling a maximum of 250-300 words. Your statements do not need to explain everything, they must engage and start a conversation.
- Keep it simple—do not use artspeak that only museum curators understand. It needs to be clear to everyone who comes across it, if they don’t understand the words you use they will not buy it, and if they do buy it they will want to be able to explain it to others.
- Have multiple versions—be flexible with it so you can adapt it to exhibition needs.
- Discuss what the work is, how you make it, and why.
- Use your artist statement to develop your “elevator statement,” a pointed explanation of your work in 2 or 3 sentences that you commit to memory used when you are asked, “Oh you are an artist, what do you make?”
- If you are not comfortable with your writing or want it to be better, work with a professional, the cost will be much more affordable than missing out on sales.
Your biography is where you get to write about yourself and give the reader some insight into who you are and how that is reflected in your art. This can be written from the outside perspective so I definitely recommend working with a professional art writer to craft your bio and tell your story. Most importantly, remember this is about you, not necessarily your art, but you can discuss your background with the arts, it’s kind of like a narrative of your resume with more detail about your life. I once heard a great comment about this, “people buy from people” so let them know who you are.
Your C.V. (Curriculum Vitae) is your art resume, and should look similar to your professional resume. It should include:
- Your elevator statement
- Contact information
- Exhibition History (solo and group shows can be separate)
- Gallery Representation
These are the basic written materials that will make up your portfolio and your website. If you have all of these materials prepared you will easily be able to build your marketing materials. Better so, you will be able to engage people with your work and hopefully turn them into clients.
Remember, I have many years of experience writing for artists and since I have offered this service my clients have been very satisfied, but more importantly they are more confident and using the materials more often. Contact me if you can use some help crafting your written materials.