I want to make a suggestion to all of you as you work on your artist statements. Really take a close and honest look at your statements and ask yourself the question: “Can I see in my mind’s eye, my work in these words?” Then ask: “Can someone who has never seen my work see my work in these words?”
*NOTE: always follow all application instructions. If an application asks for a 500 word artist statement – do what they say!
Your artist statement should be a clear reflection of your motivations, process, content and if you have them, your influences. This is a supporting statement for your work. It serves to explain the parts of your work that may not be clear to your viewer, but it should also describe your work so that it can exist as its own thing. Poetry is fine, so long as the statement clearly describes your work. It is a good idea to indicate scale, installation, media, process etc.
Just a reminder that these are living documents. You may be able to simply edit these statements for the next several years as your work grows, or you may need to write a new statement every year. Don’t be afraid to let go of words or statements you are attached to. If they no longer describe your work, you keep the words as a way to describe your work to yourself, but they do not necessarily need to remain in your artists statement. Try to be as objective as possible with these. Step outside the part of yourself that makes the work, and write from the point of view of a well informed observer if you can.
Please read the advice given here, and once finished, take a moment to peruse the other information on these really helpful websites:
Next read through the following.
Artist Statements: A Quick Guide
Your artist statement is a written description of your work that gives your audience deeper
insight into it. It may include your personal history, the symbolism you give your materials, or
the issues you address; Your statement should include whatever is most important to you and
Your artist statement supplements the visual information in your portfolio. Other uses include the
following: helping dealers and other arts professionals talk about and sell your work; providing
background information for writers of articles, reviews, and catalogues; functioning as the basis
for cover letters and grant proposals.
What a Statement covers:
• Your work’s purpose or philosophy
• Your methods and materials
• Keep it short, coherent and clear – No more than 1 page, double spaced.
• Write in simple sentences using simple words
• Focus on topics not apparent from viewing your slides, such as symbols or metaphors,
themes and issues underlying your work, materials, scale, etc.
• Proofread your statement for misspelled words, bad grammar, or confusing content.
• Rewrite your statement every time you complete a new body of work.
• Imitate the theoretical or intellectualized style of writing used in critical art magazines.
• Try to impress the reader by your extensive knowledge of art criticism or art history. You
want to impress them with your art.
• Never use weak phrases that reflect insecurities like “I am hoping to,” “I am trying to,” or “I
would like to.”
Source: NY Foundation for the Arts, by Matthew Deleget, NYFA Quarterly, Summer 1999
Developing Your Artists Statement
An artist statement is never finished for long. Like your resume, it will be revised frequently, as
your work changes and as you find new ways of expressing what you are doing. So get good at
Three Types of Artists Statements
• Artist statements are rarely longer than one page, double spaced. More information than that
is usually not necessary and will probably not be read.
• It can address a large body of work, or work in different media all concerning the same ideas.
• This longer statement will accompany an exhibition or performance of your work.
• Can be included in a portfolio or grant application.
• Used as a reference for: promoting, describing, selling, writing about your work by gallerists,
curators, publicists, critics, journalists etc.
One or two paragraph statement:
• No longer than half a page.
• Addresses the most pertinent information about the work, a particular series or media.
• Can be incorporated into the heading of a slide description sheet, which accompanies a
portfolio, grant application, etc.
• Can be the lead-in to a longer project description.
25 word statement:
• This statement contains the central idea of your work to catch the reader/listeners’ attention.
• Can be inserted into correspondence: cover letters, letters of intent, artist biography.
• Memorize it. Be prepared to deliver it anytime. For example when asked “What do you do?”
when meeting someone for the first time, at social occasions, openings, on the elevator.
Think of it as a verbal business card.
A good artist statement supplements the visual information in a portfolio or an exhibition
so that the reader/viewer can better understand it.
Compose your statement with a sympathetic friend in mind, one who is genuinely interested in
your work and who wants understand it. To get started writing your statement, try describing one
or two recent works. What do you want the reader to know about them?
Your statement should stand on its own. Your reader should be able to imagine what your work
looks like-even if they haven’t seen it. Make people want to see your work!
Some Do’s and Don’ts:
• DO write a strong, compelling statement without art jargon.
• DO develop a strong first sentence. Explain clearly and precisely why you make art, what it
means to you and what materials you use. Tell a story about something that moved you into
making a specific body of work. Draw the reader into your world.
• DO keep it as short as possible. No more than one typed page, double spaced, even less is
better. It is an introduction and a supplement to the visual information, not your life story.
• DO focus on topics that may not be apparent from viewing your slides, such as, influences in
your work: themes and issues. The techniques, materials used, or scale of the work can also
be important information to include.
• DON’T imitate the writing often used in art magazines. Avoid artspeak and pretentious
language. If your statement is difficult to read, it will NOT be read.
• DON’T try to impress the reader with your extensive knowledge of art criticism or
• DON’T announce what you are attempting to do, just clearly express what you have
Source: Adapted from Jackie Battenfield’s, “Artist in the Marketplace Program, The Bronx
Museum of the Arts, 2003
Samples of Successful & Not So Successful Artist Statements:
Example #1: less successful
T.S. Eliot spoke of how the present shapes the past as much as the past affects the present. These
paintings aspire to blur the distinction between the two and enter into a free-flowing dialogue
between my present and my past. They ask fundamental questions as to the nature of time, the
nature of change, and the meaning of invention. The ambition, which inspires their making, is to
step outside of the linear, chronological unfolding of events and celebrate the eternal present
that is the time art shapes.
Evaluation: This statement, although poetic does not really address any specific aspects of the
body of work. The reader is given very little information. Try to avoid using words like “aspire”
along with “hope” “attempt”. They are weak and may reflect insecure feelings on your part. Try
to use more active and strong phrases. Notice how much more active and stronger the phrase is
without the word “aspire”: “These paintings blur the distinction between… “
Example #2: less successful
“The body, however, consists of an indefinite multiplicity of parts and arbitrary manifestations
which are subjected to movement and divided into substances, moments, and details.”
– Marsilio Ficino from About Love orPlaton’s Feast
The works deal with a fragmentary corporeality which seeks its stimulation in the natural
sciences, such as botany and neurology. The drawings construct and illustrate an intellectual
model of deconstruction of corporeality and the search for unity. The central question here is the
sense of time. Do different time levels exist parallel to each other? Does the unity of the
individual exist in time, which is characterized by acceleration, rotation, and speed? The
drawings reflect an internal world view which revolves around fragment, unity, and rupture. The
simple pencil drawings are made on former construction plans, on the reverse sides are old
sketches of pattern designs. The structure of the folds and the paper collage further emphasizes
Evaluation: This statement doesn’t service the visual work either. It is full of important
sounding words, but what do they mean? What is an “intellectual model of deconstruction of
corporeality?” lt is a statement that is difficult to read, so it won’t get read. It has not provided
much help in allowing the viewer to have a fuller understanding of the art. Prefacing the artist
statement with this quote further obscures the artist’s intentions without providing any real
Example #3: successful
I began using a typewriter for its obvious function – to record my thoughts and ideas.
Communicating is a crucial yet constant struggle for me. The more I typed, the more the letters
and words on the pages began to take on a new function, a new language. My discovery of this
new language created with my typewriter and paper was one made up of patterns and grids
formed by punctuation marks: commas, colons, apostrophes, and brackets. It was as if the
typewriter was experiencing a breakdown, and this breakdown was my breakthrough. I had
discovered a new way to communicate. There is an endless source of information that can be
created through a limited use of materials: paper and a typewriter. I became, and am still,
intrigued by this process.
Evaluation: This is a good statement. It is precisely written and fun to read. The sentences are
strong and simple. It answers the kinds of questions that arise when viewing the work, in this
case, how are these marks being made and why while providing supportive information about the
artist’s process and thinking.
what is an artist statement?
An artist statement is text that accompanies and explains the artist’s intentions of their body of work. A strong artist statement supplements the visual information in a portfolio or exhibition so that the reader/viewer can better understand it. Your artist statement should stand on its own so that the reader can imagine what your work looks like even if they have not seen it.
length of an artist statement
An artist statement generally ranges between 100 – 300 words.*
A longer artist statement might describe a large body of work, accompany an exhibition or be used by curators, journalists, publicists, and critics
A shorter artist statement might be used to address very specific information about your body of work, and can be used as
an introduction to documents or applications
A super-short artist statement, or “elevator speech” should be more-or-less memorized, so you can clearly articulate to
viewers what your work is about, both verbally and in writing
some dos & don’ts
• DO write a strong, compelling statement that connects the viewer to your work
• DO develop a strong first sentence
• DO keep it as short as possible
• DO focus on topics that may not be apparent from viewing your work
• DON’T use ‘artspeak’, overly flowery or pretentious language, or art jargon
• DON’T try to impress the reader with vocabulary or extensive knowledge of art criticism
• DON’T announce what the viewer should feel, just clearly express what you have accomplished