Why Write a Bio?
A bio is often the first point of contact for new readers and collectors, and as such it offers you a chance to introduce your artist to collectors and make them want to learn more. Bios also drive search engine optimization: When returning search results, Google and other search engines privilege written content that is “sticky” (i.e. readers spend time on the page and continue browsing), and so providing an engaging bio with well-written prose is a great way to increase discoverability for your artists.
These are the three cornerstones—tried, tested, and used today by our writers at Artsy—of the perfect artist bio:
- The bio should summarize the artist’s practice—including medium(s), themes, techniques, and influences.
- The bio should open with a first line that encapsulates, as far as possible, what is most significant about the artist and his/her work, rather than opening with biographical tidbits, such as where the artist went to school, grew up, etc. For example: John Chamberlain is best known for his twisting sculptures made from scrap metal and banged up, discarded automobile parts and other industrial detritus.
- The profile should be between 80 and 140 words. The ideal bio is ~120 words, though a tightly written 80-word bio is preferable to a longer bio that includes repetition and filler sentences.
Why 120 words?
Audience engagement researchers at museums have found that visitors lose interest in wall labels after 150 words. Our philosophy for artist bios: leave your reader wanting more by limiting your word count to ~120 words. A reader can take away one or two key points, maximum.
If you want to provide a more definitive overview of an artist’s practice, consider other channels, such as a press release or a blog post (Artsy Preferred and Premium subscribers can create posts using Writer, our in-house publishing tool).
Questions to consider when writing about an artist’s practice
- What medium/media does the artist work in?
- What is his or her style like?
- What significant work or series can you talk about that will give a visual description of the above qualities?
- Subject matter
- What are common or characteristic themes depicted in the artist’s work? What subjects drive the works or provide underlying themes?
- For historic or deceased artists, consider:
- Why is this artist important?
- What impact did this artist make on history, or what precedent did this artist set in art-making? What other artists impacted the artist’s practice?
- How did this artist redefine a medium or media?
- Who were the artist’s peers or teachers?
- In what political or technological climate was/is the artist working in, i.e. what historical or political events might have influenced the work?
- Popular Culture
- What areas of the arts or popular culture did this artist incorporate into his or her work?
- What other areas of the arts or popular culture did/does this artist engage with, e.g. creating theatrical sets, costumes, music videos, etc.?
- Can any of these above questions be answered in a brief (1-2 sentences) and engaging quotation from the artist?