In this blog post, I'd like to share a few of the questions I've received from artists I've worked with through my writing and consulting sessions. Learn more about artist biographies, resumes, and pitching to galleries below!
I have a question about the artist biography, as a concept. The approach seems to differ among artists; some have a matter-of-fact history of education and artistic development, while others treat the bio as a statement but in the 3rd person.
This is my opinion based on my years as a curator, writer, and gallerist. Honestly, it's boring from my end to have the same information in the bio as well as the statement. When I've discovered and want to learn about a new artist, I want to do exactly that - learn something new. Not be told the same thing over again. I also feel it's a missed opportunity on the part of the artist, especially when it comes to making connections with writers, curators, etc. This is a chance for them to get to know you more. Why wouldn't you take the chance to tell them something else, something different about you? I'd prefer the bio to be short if an artist is early in their career (a few sentences) rather than for it to be padded with extra fluff (i.e. the same info about their work that they've already shared in the statement).
I have found success selling my art online for almost a decade. I typically come out with 4 to 5 collections a year with each series including 10-15 original paintings. I utilize both my mailing list of over 1,000 collectors and Instagram account announce my work to prospective clients. Selling exclusively through my own website's shop has worked wonderfully for me up until recently. Now, with Instagram’s reach declining, I find myself interested in working with galleries for the first time.
My issue is this…when it comes to writing my artist CV, how do I convey years of success selling my work as a professional artist with only limited experience of working with galleries?
I understand your frustrations! I've actually written a blog post that covers many of these concerns for All She Makes here is the link to the post on their website: https://www.allshemakes.org/blog/1-5d935
To make a few points from the article specific to you:
1. Remember that a CV/resume is just one part of your submission to a gallery and certainly not the main focus. The priority is always the quality of the work and how it fits within their program. Pricing and where you are in your career are also considerations but are secondary. With that in mind, your images and website should be your primary concerns and while having a professionally written resume is key, I wouldn't necessarily over-stress about what is or isn't on it.
2. If you have any exhibitions with galleries, even if it is only a few of them, list those first. Just make sure to format them accordingly. Here's an easy artist resume template
if you need help.
3. Then, I'd list your online releases as if they were online exhibitions. Try to format them in a similar manner to the in-person exhibitions.
4. If you're still feeling unsure about how your resume will be perceived or worry it will affect their review in a negative way, be transparent and address it directly in the email when you contact them with your submission materials. I think exactly what you said to me in your initial email explains your situation in a clear, concise manner! I wouldn't be turned off by it as a gallerist.
This part is what I mean: I have found success selling my art online for almost a decade. I typically release four to five collections a year with each series including 10-15 original paintings. I utilize both my mailing list of over 1,000 collectors and Instagram account to announce my work to prospective clients.
The only thing that you could add to make this even more enticing to a gallery is sales data. Do you often sell out or nearly sell out? Even if that was in years past, this is still worth noting that you basically come with a built-in audience of potential buyers (even though the point is that they will introduce you to new ones!).
5. Lastly, I urge you to consider this...is a gallery that would judge you on not having shown with galleries previously or for having a resume that doesn't have 'traditional' accomplishments or accolades truly worth working with? The gallery relationship has to work both ways and should be a mutually beneficial one. These partnerships work best when built on trust and respect on both sides. Not all galleries are created equal, but I promise there are many good ones out there that wouldn't think twice about working with you based on your background and talent.
I created a template to email to galleries that I'm interested in potentially working with. Ideally, I would include a line at the beginning about how I've visited the gallery or viewed their recent show, but if I haven't had a chance to do either - for example, if the gallery is located in another state - what would you recommend?
When reaching out to a gallery you've never met, sincere compliments are always a nice way to ease into a conversation. I've also heard of an artist collecting a piece from the gallery (even something small) so that they learn your name. This has actually happened with me. To be clear, I still would have worked with them even if they hadn't bought something - but showing support in any form is a nice gesture that will be appreciated. For example, you can sign up for their mailing list (+ responding once to a newsletter) and follow online (+ leaving a few friendly comments!), which also does the trick of getting them to learn your name without having to spend any $.
But for me personally, I like to see research. Can you find a press feature that they did and comment on one of their responses you resonated with or say something about a show they curated a while ago? The other thing to keep in mind is timeliness. Did they just open a landscape or abstract show? Then you can say, I'd love to be considered when you plan the next one! Did they post about having a successful year? Then you can say how you respect how they run their business and would welcome the opportunity to work with them in the future.
Have they mentioned that they will be showing at a fair in your area soon? Wish them success, say that you're local, and ask for a pass so you can attend (and introduce yourself). Try and use whatever they are talking about now to hook them.