The “laundry list of accomplishments”
Readers tend to skip or stop reading biographies that list exhibition histories or awards. Artsy allows you to add additional exhibition highlights and accolades for your artists in a list format, separate from the artist bio through the “CV” tab:
This feature obviates the need for laundry lists of your artists’ accomplishments, which, impressive as they may be, are tedious to read in prose format. Upon adding solo or group shows one by one within the “CV” tab, information will be reviewed and approved by our Cataloging Team to appear on Artsy's canonical Artist page. At this time, there is not a way to upload a CV other than individually.
There are certainly instances where it makes sense to include one particularly outstanding prize or exhibition, for example, an artist’s inclusion in the Venice Biennale. In this case, try to find a way to naturally include mention of the distinction in the normal flow of the text on the artist bio or on the artwork level.
It can be tempting to sing your artists’ praises. We’ve found, however, that readers do not respond positively to unsubstantiated claims about an artist’s import (e.g. ”Artist X is considered one of the most important artists of the post-war period,” or, ”Artist Y is widely regarded for her beautiful work”). Most readers will see right through trumped up language and, even worse, may become skeptical of the rest of your content program. The best way to maximize the power of a good bio is to try to educate, not “hard-sell,” your reader. Countless studies have shown that the hard sell doesn’t work, especially for younger audiences (read: tech-savvy collectors), who respond most positively to simple and authentic messages.
Misplaced academic jargon and pseudo-theoretical writing are almost universally despised. Instead of trying to impress other curators, academics, and galleries, focus on your audience of new collectors who may be completely unfamiliar with your artists. Readers want to glean information from your writing, and the best way to do that is to use simple language. A good rule of thumb is to impart one idea per sentence.
Spelling and Punctuation
Nothing undermines the credibility of your content more quickly than spelling and grammar mistakes. When writing, some best practices are:
- Use a serif font (e.g. Times New Roman) to ensure proper formatting of “smart” or curly quotes
- Make sure you have the spell check function turned on, and that your language preferences are set to English
- Have at least one other person, if not two, read over your text
- Don’t forget to put exhibition titles in quotations (e.g. “Greater New York”), and artwork titles in italics (e.g. La Vie, 1903)
Duplicating artist’s nationality, birth year, and death year
It is a common convention in most art writing to include an artist’s nationality, birth year, and death year upon first mention (for example, “Alexander Calder [American, 1898–1976]). However, Artsy stores these facts as metadata fields that accompany the artist’s name. When adding an artist, Artsy will allow you to add this information, making it unnecessary for you to add it in the body of your text. If needed, you can also request edits to an already existing artist directly in CMS within each artist.
Letting bios get stale
For young artists with rapidly evolving careers, be sure to check back every year, or before any new exhibition, to re-assess what the most important aspects of your artist’s practice are.