Bio Camp Open Thread
It's with that caveat (i.e., that these are things I look for and they may or may not help with residency programs, grants, other galleries, etc) that I outline some general impressions about what strikes me as a negative in reading a bio. I hope this leads to more discussion about what has worked or not worked for various artists (i.e., a positive open thread, with not too much complaint about how the system has its priorities wrong). The following are simply my opinions and not a reflection of the system, per se.
The general categories I normally see in a bio are
- Contact info
- Short biography info
- Solo Exhibitions
- Group Exhibitions
- Writing / Curating / Related Professional Activity
So what's good to include (and how) in each of these categories? What other categories are often left off but potentially important? Which categories are not that important?
In general it's imporant to remember that a resume is not chiseled in stone. You can edit it per audience, so don't get too hung up on a one-size-fits-all approach. Here's my personal observations on what's effective.
This one seems simple, but I've seen aliases or confusing "aka" info here. Choose a professional spelling of your name and stick with it (i.e., if you use your middle initial...use it everywhere...if you don't want it everywhere, don't use it here). If you have the exact same name as an artist already getting attention, do consider a variation. That may not always be appealing, but it might help lessen confusion
Address, phone number(s), email, website.
Short biography info
Born: include year (f*ck the agists) and city/country
I wouldn't include much more than that, and of course, you can lie about your age if you like, but be prepared to be caught out and have the person catching you trust you less. I've seen it happen.
It's best here to keep it simple: School, degree, year. Unless your major is relevant to your current body of work, I wouldn't include it. I wouldn't include most residencies here either. Create a separate category for them. Education implies a curriculum you passed, not free room and board and studio for a set period of time.
This is information I turn to first most often. What I'm looking for is a track record that makes sense to me given what I think I know about this artist. What I'm also looking for is a track record that makes sense for our gallery. In other words, if an artist has only exhibited at blue chip spaces, I'll wonder why they're now interested in our emerging space. There may be a very good reason, but here's a good opportunity to edit your resume for your audience. Not every exhibition you have under your belt will be a positive here. You can get away with any combination you choose by using the header "Selected Solo Exhibitions."
I also look to see if an artist has exhibited in what I consider galleries of a kindred spirit. This requires the artist doing some research to pick the right ones to highlight. Check to see what art fairs the gallery does, and who also participates in those fairs that you've exhibited in. There's no guarantee you won't include someone the gallery doesn't like, but the odds of that are not so great you shouldn't focus on those here.
Of course all the above presumes you have a list of solo exhibitions, which for emerging artists is often not the case. If you don't have any solo exhibitions, then simply have one header "Selected Exhibitions." Don't draw additional attention to the nonexistence of solo exhibitions by using only a "Group Exhibition" header.
Also, choose one style for the details of an exhibition and use it CONSISTENTLY. Organize these by year (months are not important). If you're really, really keen on getting into a particular gallery, do your homework here too. Check the bios on the gallery website and see what style they use (is the title in quotes or italics, is the gallery name in all caps or not, is the city and state listed, or only city, etc.). Make your bio look how they make theirs look and you'll avoid making them think about what seems different so they only concentrate on what you want them to.
Believe it or not, too many group exhibitions can be a negative, suggesting the artist is all over the place and probably doesn't have a body of work for a solo exhibition that hasn't already been seen in bits and pieces. It can scream "Overexposure." "Selected Group Exhibitions" is a better idea. And of course the ideas of tailoring apply here as well.
As I noted in the other post, I consider open submission exhibitions a negative here. Also, exhibitions in restaurants and the like should be left out. Gallerists are snobbish about the context of where art is appropriately seen. You can dislike that about them, but you shouldn't ignore it in preparing your bio for one of them.
Awards /Grants / Residencies
Again, organize these by year and keep the information simple. What and when.
Number one question I hear about this: should I put online reviews in here. YES. Even blog reviews, Yes. Press is press. What a gallerist is looking for here is 1) are people writing about your work and 2) who is writing about your work. Just because a talented writer writes about you online rather than in print doesn't change either of those.
Organize chronologically. Most distracting here for me is inconsistency again. Choose one style and stick with it. Your resume is a professional document, not a creative one. Be detail oriented, consistent, and clear.
Really only impressive if the collectors are well known. Otherwise, a negative IMO. I'd limit to museums and collectors with international reputations if you feel it's important at all.
Writing / Curating / Related Professional Activity
I'd be careful here. Unless the related activity somehow reinforces your studio practice or project, I'm not sure these items always help. A gallery needs to know the artist is serious enough about their art that they spend as much time as possible in their studio. If it's clear the artist is running all over the place being a curator, critic, professor, or whatever, that seems less likely. Having noted that, some such activities can be very impressive and, well, make an impression, so it's a bit of a tricky one. I'd suggest keeping this section simple and direct if it seems important to include.
But I've rambled on long enough here. What feedback have you received/given and what do you recommend?