Marketing Mondays: The Résumé

It feels like this sometimes, doesn't it?

Last week I talked about the differences between and among the CV, résumé and bio. This week I’d like to talk about the résumé itself.
The Basics
A standard résumé for artists organizes information this way:
. Education
. Solo Exhibitions
. Group Exhibitions
. Awards
. Collections
. Bibliography
Additional information you may wish to list:
. Academic Affiliations
. Curatorial Projects
. Writing
. Professional Activities
The Specifics
. List your M.F.A. (or M.A.), then B.F.A (or B.A.). If you don’t have an art degree, list your education up top only if it relates to the work you’re doing now. The degree of a surgeon turned painter is relevant if she’s making art that addresses medical or anatomical issues, for instance. If you don’t have an art degree, don’t sweat it. Unless you want you teach, it’s the work and your networking that will advance your career.
. If you have one solo exhibition and several two-artist exhibitions, make a category: Solo and Two-Artist Exhibitions. As you well know, solo and two-artist shows require a lot more ambition and work on your part. Dealers know this, so they look at that category with interest: Where was the show (commercial, non-profit, academic venue)? In a large city or small town? When? All of this information serves to place you in terms of professional achievements and standing. And it’s relative: A modest résumé may make you a catch for a small city gallery; for Pace, not so much
. By the way, using One-Man Shows as a category is passé, even if you’re a man. Stick with the more gender neutral Solo or One-Person
. Credit the curator. It’s not only respectful to the person who selected your work; it underscores the fact that the curator selected you for the show
. Careful with juried shows. They’re a good thing early in your career when you’re building your résumé and looking for exposure; and I think it’s a good idea to list the juror, especially if it’s in a good venue with a respected juror (otherwise why would you have bothered to enter the show?). By midcareer, however, you should be off and running in academic galleries, libraries, co-ops, non-profits and, ideally, in commercial galleries. Don’t list juried shows in a separate category; just fold them into your listing year by year
. Collections: List museums, institutions and corporate collections. If you have a lot of each, you could create little subheads; otherwise put the museum collections first, alphabetically, followed by all the others, alphabetically. When you’re listing a lot of items, alphabetizing introduces an element of order
. Keep the private collections private, as in Private Collections in North America and Europe. No one cares if Josephine Schmo, or the Blow Family owns your work. On the other hand, if it’s part of the Rubell Family Collection, or the Cisneros Fontanals Collection, or any large private holding that’s publicly known, by all means include it in your alphabetical list
. Be selective. If you’ve been showing since 1975, keep the kitchen-sink version as a CV and offer selected listings on the resume. Your 1980 solo at the Dorothy Sbornak Gallery of the Miami Beach Senior Citizens Center is useful as a historical fact on your personal and private CV, not as a current documentation. On the other hand, a 1980 group exhibition at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach remains viable
. How do you list additonal information if you have just one item in each category? A category needs two or more to be a category, so you might create an Additional Projects subhead and list the show you curated, the article you wrote and your involvement as the founder of the ABC Project. The résumé will change to accommodate new categories as your achievements grow
. When does career become more important than education? While some galleries always list the education first, I’m of the thinking that once you reach midcareer, your experience and achievements carry more weight than where you went to school. Personally, I now put my education last. (If you got your M.F.A. from Yale, disregard what I just said.)
The basic K.I.S.S. formula works here: Keep It Simple, Stupid (not you personally, of course)
. Make sure your name and contact information are on the first page, and that your name is on every successive page. Basic information, right? You would be amazed at how many artists leave this off. I've seen it
. Even better, create a letterhead that you can use for the résumé, your statement, and any correspondence. Make one using available fonts in your word processing software. Use the letterhead for the first page only; your name and email address on the subsequent pages is enough
. Number the pages. We tend to secure résumé pages with a paper clip or not at all. What happens if the pages end up scattered?
. List your achievements with the most recent first. If you have several exhibitions in any one year, format the document in either of these ways. Be consistent with solo and group exhibitions, and with subsequent information:
2010  Exhibition
. . . . .Exhibition
. . . . .Exhibition
. . . . .Exhibition

. Don’t get carried away with a variety of fonts. Pick one. Then to highlight the title of the exhibition, use “Quotes,” Bold, or Italic. Pick one. Underline tends to be used in the bibliography for book titles
. While I'm at it, here's my personal peeve: U.S. Post Office designations. There's a logic to the two-letter system, but it's post-officese; for instance NY, MA, CA and PA are designed to get the mail delivered to New York, Massachusetts, California and Pennsylvania. In English those states are abbreviated as N.Y., Mass., Calif., Pa.
. You don’t need to list an Objective, as conventional job-hunting résumés do. Everyone in the art world knows what you want
What information can you leave off?
The résumé is by nature a selected list, so leave off the least important items; they're typically from early in your career anyway. This may make your career seem shorter than it actually is, but the résumé is designed for perusal.
. That brings us to the age issue. Artists of both sexes are judged by what they have achieved and when, so a selected list of recent shows and activities will focus the reader on your career now. If you're showing regionally, age may not be such a big deal. If you want a bigger career, it is. Joan Snyder, who has a string of important museum exhibitions, gallery solos, and a MacArthur Grant, thank you very much, is free to post her age (70) anywhere. She has the bonafides to back up the number, and has had them for a long time. Louise Bourgeois was a late bloomer careerwise, but by the time she’d reached 90, she was close to art world sainthood and her age became a badge of achievement. So when you get to be that age, by all means reinstate those early exhibitions if they're that important to you (they won't be, though)
. I have taken the years off my degrees, and removed my earliest exhibition listings. The perpetual double standard being what it is, ageism is worse for women. If you want to disregard me because of my age and sex, I’m not going to make it easy for you
Last thoughts
Want to see how other artists have structured their résumés? Make a point of looking at what the galleries provide. Or if you want to do it this minute, look for them online. While I have noted some basic categories and formats, you have plenty of latitude as to what you include and how you present it. But . . .

. Don't over design it. Leave that to the graphic designers, whose presentation is as much to showcase their skills as their achievements. But there are useful variations. One artist I know has created a sidebar to list the awards and grants he has received (it's a long and impressive list, worthy of being showcased that way)
. Skip the headshot of you on the résumé —unless you’re an actor or a Realtor. And trust me, if you’re not an actor, you’ll end up looking like you sell real estate
. Online versions offer you greater opportunities to structure a résumé. Live links are a great way to direct your reader to an exhibition installation or a good review online elsewhere. And templates for websites and blogs allow you to explore new options, such as sidebar information, even slide shows and videos. I include exhibition images on the sidebar of my online résumé, but I keep the print version standard
. What does new technology offer? Personally, I’d love to see a 30 second tour of an artist’s studio or short video of the artist being interviewed by a journalist, accessed by a click; or a 360 view of a solo exhibition in quiet animation on the sidebar of an online résumé. And if you want to put a picture of yourself in the studio, why not?

Now, of course, you have to go and make the work that gets into the show that gets listed on the résumé.


Lori Buff said...

Great article but it's also opened up some questions. I went to Alfred University for ceramics but left after my freshman year, do I include that experience on my resume? This is the first time I've seen anyone mention skipping the head shot, is it just because you think the resume will make someone look like a Realtor or is it something else?
I love the idea of am embedded video.

annell4 said...

Very good post as always! Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Thank you...just the information I needed today!

Bernard Klevickas said...

Very clear, concise and thorough!

Claudia said...

Thank you very much. Very thoughtful and helpful information.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to see your state abbreviation peeve, since I didn't know there were others out there like me. I however, come at it from the opposite-end and find abbreviations like Mass. and Calif. old-fashioned. They strike me as a waste of space. So I actually prefer the post office system!