Over the years I have received many press kits from artists and galleries. Some of these have been exceptionally comprehensive, complete with all documents and images in order, whereas there have been many times when it has been frustrating for me to get bits and pieces of information and then have to chase the gallery/artist for more material.
An artist statement is an essential part of the press kit and often the most neglected. So here’s a guide on how to write an effective artist statement, what it should contain and tips on making it more professional.
What is an artist statement?
An artist statement is an introduction to your current body of work. It is an indispensable part of your portfolio which accompanies and augments your current artworks; essentially it is a textual articulation of a visual body of work. It is an explanation of your work ‘in words’ to the buyer, gallery, media, reviewers and also to an extent other artists, critics and students.
What it is not: An artist’s statement is not your bio/ profile/resume, nor is it a collection of images with one line of text describing each of them.
An artist statement is meant to present the artist’s perspective; his/her points of reference, inspirations, the choice of subject and material or medium and forms the framework to support the artworks. It talks to the viewer and explains the reasoning behind the art and the underlying concept.
What an artist statement must contain
- Your unique perspective and point of view – an overall brief
- What is your current series of art about – a detailed explanation
- A brief history of how your works have evolved to their current state
- Influences/inspirations if any
- Choice of materials and media
How to write
Begin by first jotting down points and making a list of all the information that you would like to include in it. Write down what is your overall vision for the current series of work, what it is about, how it has evolved, what have been the major influences on your art practice, how is it linked to your previous work and why have you chosen to work with specific materials and media.
Once you have listed down the information, organize it into paragraphs that flow from one point to the next. I find a word length of approximately 350 to 450 words is usually enough. The emphasis should be on clarity and being as objective as possible about your work, which is easier said than done. Rewrite and rework the text until you have a document that reads well, explains your perspective appropriately and is free from errors in grammar and spelling.
- Use plain and simple English to convey your thoughts. Do remember that your target audience is not necessarily well versed in art.
- In fact, it is not at all necessary to use an art critic's language.
- Be as clear as possible, stay focused and make it concise.
- Remember communication is the key and that you are 'talking' to a viewer about your work.
- If necessary, you could have a professional writer write your artist statement or at least obtain feedback about the content and flow of your text from an expert.
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