I have long declared that an artist’s biography is one of the most important tools I have in my sales tool box. While a potential buyer can certainly make a connection to a work of art without knowing anything about the artist, a good biography can reinforce that connection and ultimately lead to the sale. I have made many sales over the years where the biography was a strong influencing factor in the buyer’s decision to make a purchase.
In my book, “Starving” to Successful I share the importance of the biography and some of the key elements of a good biography:
People fall in love with artwork; they buy stories. The most common question I hear from visitors to the gallery (and I hear it a dozen times a day), is: “Where is the artist from?” Although the answer I give doesn’t seem to make any difference, when someone is looking at a piece of art, this seems to be the burning question.
Why the need to know from whence the artist hails? When a person sees a piece of art for the first time, he or she is challenged to understand it, to categorize it, to make a connection with it. Knowing where the artist is from is a jumping off point on that journey to understanding.
Having spoken with many collectors about the artwork they own, I know that geography plays a number of important roles. First, I always hear where they found the work. “We were vacationing in Carmel,” or “we found it on a trip to Rome.” Then, invariably, geography has an impact in the story of the artist: “The artist is a color-blind painter from Texas,” or “she’s a twenty-year old sculptor from Montana.” The more the collector can wrap his mind around the artist’s story, the more likely he is to make an emotional connection and buy.
This is where a strong biographical statement can help you increase your sales. I had a client from California visit the gallery in the spring of 2007. She was attracted to paintings by one of my artists and we had a brief discussion about his work before I handed her a copy of his biography. Normally a collector would have taken the bio home, read it, and called me back if still interested in the work. This collector, however, sat down in a chair in the gallery, read the whole bio, and then bought three major pieces on the spot. I have no doubt the bio played a major role in reinforcing her love for the artwork, as well as driving her to a buying decision.
Think of your bio as a brief magazine article about you and your history. I recommend the bio be written in third-person, and run anywhere from 3-10 pages (although if you have a lot of story to tell, I see no reason not to make it longer). If you’d like an idea of what it should contain, pick up a copy of Southwest Art magazine and model your bio after their articles.
You should answer the following questions in your bio:
1. Where are you from? The bio can retrace your geography from your birth to the present day.
2. How did you become interested in art?
3. What kind of formal (and/or informal) training do you have?
4. How has your career developed?
5. What is your primary subject matter? Why?
6. What techniques do you employ?
7. What is your style?
8. Are you involved with any arts or charitable organizations?
9. What noteworthy awards have you won? (Don’t list all of your awards here; that’s what a resume is for.)
10. What has been your motivation or inspiration?
11. What have others (the more notable the source the better) said about your work?
12. What do your collectors feel about your work?
Of course, the more creative you are, the better. Look for a unique angle to drive the article.
In the years since I wrote “Starving” to Successful, I have found many artists who aren’t quite satisfied with their biographies and artist statements. We are pleased to announce that Xanadu Gallery now offers professional writing services for artists. If you need help writing a professional biography or statement (or just don’t have the time or desire to put into all that writing), visit our writing services page to learn more and have a professional bio and statement created for you.
Have you always wondered what it takes to show your work in galleries? Is your work being seen by qualified collectors?
In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.
Learn more and order today.