HELP DESK is where I answer your queries about making, exhibiting, finding, marketing, buying, selling—or any other activity related to contemporary art. Submit your questions anonymously here: http://bit.ly/132VchD. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving. HELP DESK is co-sponsored by KQED.org.
Artists are routinely asked to donate work toward the benefit of an organization. I have reached the point where I am just not sure how my participation ranks along with my overall exhibition history. Also, benefit shows vary greatly in scope and prestige. With some, artists are carefully selected, and others—well, we simply add to the giant pot in order to be able to help out in what little way we can. So what (if any) is a suitable way to list auctions, charitable donations, or benefit shows on one’s CV? Do they go in the “Select Group Exhibitions” category? Do they need an asterisk of some kind? Do they get their own section? Or do they stay out altogether? Furthermore, when panels or curators view résumés, do they view these things as positive qualities or simply as résumé padding?
The short answer is that there is not only one answer. There’s a bit of confusion about CVs and résumés, since the two terms are often interchangeably used. However, you might want to think about your CV as an all-encompassing master document that lists every show, residency, award—and yes, charity auction—that you’ve ever participated in. After all, CV is short for curriculum vitae, or “the course of one’s life,” and it’s a good idea to keep such a document for your future biographers so that they get the facts straight when they’re writing about your early years.
Your résumé, on the other hand, is a document that usually has a prescribed length (“no more than two pages”) and should be tailored to the position for which you are applying. I checked in with Bert Green of Bert Green Fine Art in Chicago, and he also expressed this opinion:
“An artist’s exhibition résumé is intended to give as complete a picture as possible of how widely and well the artist’s work is exhibited and to demonstrate an involvement in and commitment to the art world. Some artists maintain two exhibition résumés, a comprehensive version with every single exhibition they have ever participated in and a shorter version that is used publicly, to save space and emphasize quality. Generally the comprehensive version is not shared, but it is a good idea to maintain one as a document for posterity.”
Mr. Green continues: “That said, it is important to select the key exhibitions for the selected listings that would advance the artist’s career and prestige. I see no harm in listing any auction or benefit exhibitions under the group exhibition category, not as a separate category. However, the frequency and number of such listings should not dominate the list. I would try to keep them to no more than 25 percent of your total. Emphasize those events with art world connections, like museum or art organization nonprofit events. Panels and curators generally look for a mix of quality and variety when they regard your exhibition listings. Some may see donation events as padding or fill, but if the overall impression of the list is that of an artist who is engaged with their venues and active, with multiple exhibitions, there is no downside to including them in moderation.”
It’s important to think very carefully about the people who are going to look at your résumé and what their needs are. If you’re applying for a spot in an exhibition, then obviously you don’t want to look as if you’re desperately padding your résumé, so a shorter but more impactful list is fine. Conversely, if you are applying for a job at an institution that depends on community engagement, you could create a section at the end of your résumé to emphasize your commitment to public service. As one who has sat on hiring committees for education, I can tell you that, when all else is equal, a clear demonstration of civic responsibility often sets one candidate ahead of the others.
There are any number of good resources on résumés out there in Internetlandia, although use your common sense when perusing—one of the first documents I pulled up suggested that artists should “use a larger font size [and] use more spacing” as strategies for lengthening a brief résumé. For the love of Duchamp, don’t do this! It’s an obvious tactic—and anyway you should be proud of what you have done and not insecure about what you haven’t done. One of the most comprehensive guidelines can be found on the College Art Association’s website, and it provides a general overview of résumés and CVs, along with formatting guidelines and some tips for tailoring. Check it out, and good luck!