An artist’s work doesn’t always speak for itself, so it’s important to have a well-crafted artist statement to accompany a body of work, series, or specific work. It is useful for collectors and dealers when they are looking to better understand the artist and their work.
An artist statement is traditionally from the artist’s point of view, written in the first person. It’s not only a tool for the artist to convey their perspective and intention behind their work, but it’s also useful for galleries to reference when writing artist bios, exhibition catalogs, press releases, or other written material about the artist and their work.
Writing a great artist statement may be a challenge especially for artists whose work comes to them intuitively. No matter your medium, style, or focus, there are different ways you can approach writing artist statements. To learn how to write compelling artist statements, check out some of our favorites below.
Great examples of Contemporary Artist Statements
In his artist statement, Michael Rich, an abstract painter and printmaker, explains his creative process and gives the reader insight into his mental state when creating. He focuses on the source of inspiration for his work and describes how he finds beauty in the small details of his own backyard. Michael also touches upon Monet and how the famous artist has impacted his work. He goes into enough detail to paint a rich picture for the reader without overwhelming the reader with too much information.
Adam Basanta opens his artist statement by focusing on the larger themes of his work and his mission as an artist. He then describes the type of work he creates and what he aims to achieve for his audience. He also describes his process and the concepts that inspire his work. As he works across multiple media and includes a great deal of conceptualism in his work, his statement provides the viewer with greater insight and understanding.
3. Fred Wilson
Fred Wilson’s statement is about a specific artwork. He explains how he came across the sculptures he uses to create this piece and how he eventually paired them to create this work. He then describes his conceptual process and the significance behind the title of the work. He also provides the reader with insight into his process of creation. By focusing on the cultural and conceptual themes he explores in his work, he provides the reader with more context and a greater understanding when viewing this work.
In his artist statement, Max Stricher explains how he creates his work, the materials he uses, and his reasons for doing so. He describes the impact his work has on the viewer and the emotions his work often evokes. His writing is descriptive and compliments his work giving the reader more context and a greater sense of appreciation of his work.
5. Shoshanna Weinberger, Long Gallery
Shoshanna Weinberger’s artist statement accompanies an exhibition of two specific series of works. She initially focuses on the larger themes and influences on her work more generally and then speaks more specifically to the featured body of work. She explains the significance behind specific visual elements and motifs in these pieces. She also describes the influence of the writer Nella Larsen on her work. Here she provides the reader with enough detail so they have a full understanding when viewing the exhibition, but not too much so that it overwhelms.
Artist Statements and Quotes by Famous Artists
Though many historical artists didn’t make formal artist statements like the ones above, many wrote about their work. Read some statements and quotes below to inspire your artist statements.
6. Mark Rothko
Here, Rothko describes his attitude toward painting. His ultimate goal when the painting is to evoke emotion and is less focused on formal color relationships or visual composition.
In this statement, Picasso demonstrates his perspective towards painting and reveals that his process of creation is very deliberate.
Here, Georgia O’Keeffe describes her philosophy as an artist. To paint for herself and not for art institutions.
9. Chuck Close
Chuck Close explains why his portraits feature people with neutral expressions, rather than displaying emotion.
Similar to O’Keeffe, Helen Frankenthaler describes her philosophy on art by focusing on invention and rule-breaking.
What Makes These Artist Statements Work
These statements all provide additional context for the viewer and demonstrate the artist’s perspective which enriches the viewer’s understanding for and appreciation of their work. They all use the active voice, which is engaging. Even though they vary in length, they are compelling and avoid overwhelming the reader with too much information or detail. Each covers the what, why, and how – what their artwork is (medium and style), why they create their work (themes and influences), and how they create the work (artistic process – conceptual or physical).
What These Artist Statements Avoid Doing
These statements avoid using too much ‘artspeak’ or academic language, which can be confusing or alienating for some audiences. Instead, they are more personal and relatable from the artist’s perspective. They do not include a list of accomplishments or accolades which can be found on the artist’s CV or highlighted in the artist’s bio. They avoid extreme binary statements. They don’t include clichés about the artist’s work nor grand statements about the artist’s role in the world. They also don’t brag about the work.
Points for Artists to Consider When Writing Artist Statements
- Who is the audience?
- What things should the reader know to better understand your creative process and your artistic mission?
- How is your process or technique important to your work?
- What do you draw inspiration from? How does this impact your work?
- What emotions does the work invoke?
- Where does this work or body of work fit within the context of current contemporary art?
- Where does this work, or body of work fit in the context of art history?
- If you find yourself too immersed in your work, take a step back and look at it holistically
There are as many approaches to making a creative statement as there are artists. For a website, brevity is the soul of wit. For a complete artist page, more expansion can be valuable. A statement can create context by tapping an historical concept or professional and emotional affinities. A life-changing event or epiphany on the road to Damascus can attract attention. Most important is an authentic approach that connects the reader to the artist. References to iconography can give access to the artwork for the viewer. Personal philosophy can illuminate artistic vision. However, some of the greatest quotes are obtuse and revealing. Jasper Johns paints “things the mind already knows. For Frank Stella, “what you see is what you see.” This originality absorbs attention.
When writing an artist statement think about what is unique to you and your work and what will compel a collector or gallery to want to know more. Though there are different approaches to writing artist statements, in general, a statement should provide the reader with insight into your work and should address the what, why, and how.
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