Preparing for an Artist Portfolio Review or Presentation Adapted by Marta Sanchez Philippe, FotoFest, for a workshop presented at Spacetaker’s ARC, June 2011 Special Thanks to our Presenters: Jennifer Ash, Exhibitions Coordinator, Art League Houston Marta Sanchez Philippe, Coordinator of the Meeting Place Portfolio Review and International Projects,FotoFest Anya Tish, Owner, Anya Tish Gallery Jennifer Ward, Exhibitions Coordinator, FotoFest
Before the Portfolio Review:Setting Your Objectives Be clear about what you want, but realistic with your goals Are you seeking technical advice, guidance or information about clarity of content, print quality (in case of photography), editing or sequencing? Are you hoping to market a completed series or body of work? Are you seeking representation for the work? Do you want an exhibition of a completed body of work at a gallery or other institution? Do you have a specific exhibition idea/concept you are wishing to present? Are you looking to publish the work?
Editing Your Portfolio pt 1 Limit the number of pieces you are showing: No more than twenty! Present a thematically unified or otherwise cohesive body of work. If you have more than one body of work to show, show your strongest work first. Most of the time, curator/gallery owners only have time to see one or two bodies of work. From a gallery owner’s perspective, when presenting artwork, start with MOST recent. Sending 20 images at once may not be best; instead, send 2-3 web-resolution images at first.
Editing Your Portfolio pt 2 Every art work in your portfolio should be a strong image. IF IN DOUBT, LEAVE IT OUT Editing and sequencing images affects how the curator/gallery owner will understand and experience your work. Ask yourself these questions when you are editing: Which is the first image I want the curator/gallery owner to see? What do I want my sequence of images to ‘say’ and why? What happens when two images are put together? Does the meaning change if I change the sequence? How do I maintain a strong sequence from beginning to end?
Presenting Your Portfolio pt 1 It is very important to present your art work in a professional manner. NEVER drop into a gallery expecting them to look at your work WITHOUT an appointment. Call or email to schedule an appointment. Carefully choose when you call/email a gallery: DO NOT call/email them the week of an opening, as they will be very busy installing etc. Best time to call or email is a week or so after an opening.
Presenting Your Portfolio pt 2 If showing photography, bring original prints-- NOT Xeroxes or laser copies. Print images on same size/paper, if possible. (Make your work appear more cohesive.) It’s not necessary to mat photography prints or drawings-- If you do, mats should be well cut and clean. Do not show your work in plastic sleeves. If you are presenting delicate works on paper in portfolio, separate each piece with appropriate sized piece of glassine paper, which you can get from Texas Art Supply and is acid free.
Ease in Handling Package your portfolio such that you can carry it, open it, show it, and put it away quickly. Simple clamshell portfolio boxes are recommended. Don’t bring 20 extra large pieces of work. Print portfolio in medium size prints. If you need to show exhibition size prints, or an original, bring 2-3 large prints in a tube, or one original art work. Keep in mind that curators/gallery owners are experienced at handling art work, and most do not like having to use white gloves when looking at your work.
Presentation Materials pt 1 Design and produce a simple promotional piece or card with your contact information that will remind the curator/gallery owner of your work. We suggest a postcard and/or calling card with image of your work on one side, and all contact info on other side, including email, mailing address, and phone number. Most curators/gallery owners remember your images better than they remember your name.
Presentation Materials pt 2 Format If you bring CDs, resumes or brochures for curator/gallery owner, they must have your name, contact information, and an image of your work on the front of the CD case and ideally on the top of the CD as well. Please include all the images and text documents in your portfolio on the CD such as cover letter, bio, resume, and artist statement/proposal and image list. Do not mail portfolios, CDs, etc without prior notification (email or call).
Presentation Materials pt 3 If you are proposing an exhibition or installation, bring all of this information: number of art works, size of each art work, matting and framing requirements, installation details, equipment needed, and photos of previous installations. Read instructions carefully before submitting your work to a gallery or other exhibition space. (Length of statement and bio, format for images, contact info, mail vs. email)
Example of Good Cover Letter Addressed to Art League Houston’s previous Exhibitions Coordinator, Sarah Schellenberg: proves he did some research on the staff at Art League Houston Artists contact details are clearly listed on both pages Thanks Sarah in advance for taking the time to read view his portfolio; Mentioned that he had visited the space and compliments Art League’s Platform: Proves he has done some research on Art League Houston Thanks Sarah AGAIN, for taking the time to view the proposal; Personally signed by the artist Artist statement and proposal idea are short; Includes the artist statement and proposal idea in the cover letter: Making it easier to read, and easier to organize since there is less paper.
Presentation Materials pt 4 Biographies, Statements and CVs Start with most recent accomplishments in your bio Keep it SIMPLE! Do not embellish, make it concise as possible. Less is more! Artist Statement included with portfolio should be about that particular body of work; keep it clear, concise, and not full of artsy jargon. Include your name and full contact information on every page Attach bibliography, reviews, anything printed or online, also starting with most recent. Most curators/gallery owners believe technique and process are important components of a successful work of art.
Problem Artist Statement This statement was sent to institution with comment boxes. This statement is too long. The highlighted portion is what is truly important and should be included.
Good Artist Statement Clear (not full of artsy jargon) Concise yet expressive Includes full contact info
Problem CV Name is included but does not include contact information
Do Your Research Get to know the institution ahead of time. Look at the kind of art work the institution, organization, or gallery presents. Choose venues/curators/galleries who will respond best to your work and be most useful for your objectives.
During the Meeting Be on time for your appointment. Look professional. Don’t make the mistake of talking the entire time. Listen to the feedback. Be mindful of the time limit with each curator/gallery owner; you will want to have time within session to receive feedback. Ask a few good questions. Always avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “no”.
Be Ready to Take Notes Bring a notebook and pen or pencil. Consider bringing a tape recorder, but always ask permission to record. You can also bring a sheet with thumbnails of art work to mark which images the curator/gallery owners responded to most strongly. Whatever note taking or recording format works for you - do it. You want to take home as clear a memory of each discussion as possible
The Last Few Minutes of the Review Ask the curator/gallery owner for his/her card. Ask the curator/gallery owner if you can add his/her name to your email list. If the curator/gallery owner requests more info, ask what format they prefer to receive – regular mail or email? If you have other materials –CDs, booklets, exhibit catalogues, etc. - ask the curator/gallery owner if he/she wants additional material. Do not assume the curator/gallery owner wants to keep them. If you are at an event, don’t burden a curator/gallery owner with a bulky packet or books to take home, offer to mail it to them at their office after the event.
After the Review Write a thank you note or email to every curator/gallery owner you saw. Do not expect the curator/gallery owner will respond to you. If they do not respond, it does not mean they do not like your work. If a curator/gallery owner asks for more materials, send the materials as soon as possible. Keep in contact with the curator/gallery owners who request it. Read your notes, reflect on the advice you receive. Consider these experiences a chance to build relationships with professionals who may respond positively to your work, and a chance to build a professional network.
THANK YOU! Visit www.spacetaker.org for more information about Spacetaker’s professional development workshops for artists and other opportunities and resources for artists.