The Great Artist Statement Hoax

Andrew MacDonald Artwork

Artists statements, what do they really mean?

by: Andrew MacDonald

Whether you love them or hate them, artist statements seem to be a fixture of the visual art world. So in order to help you make sense of them, and read between the lines, I have compiled a list of frequently used terms from artist statement examples and wanted to share what I think the author may really mean.

Artist statement = I want to be  a.)rich b.)famous c.)preferably both

Contemporary = In a modern style, invented about 100 years ago

Traditional = Not modern in style, not invented about 100 years ago

Expressive = Messy

Selected works = Mine or my mates work

Inspiring = Don’t touch/expensive

Visionary = Quite ordinary

Diverse = Middle class

Site specific = No one wants this in their home

Studio practice = Too messy to do at home

Decorative Arts = Complete waste of time

Decorative Crafts = As above, but selling for less

Designer maker = I want someone else to make it but can’t afford it

Craftsman artist = Wants a pay rise

Maker = Weirdo/oddball

Potter = As above but tries to make pots

Ceramicist = As above but can’t make pots

Textile artist = As above but owns a sewing box

Sculptor = As above but owns a tool box

Installation artist = As above but doesn’t bother to tidy up

Land artist = As above but likes going for walks

Body artist = As above but likes tattoo parlours

Performance artist = As any of the above and likes taking their clothes off too

Conceptual = The thought occurred in the bath/toilet

Photo/video artist = As above but tries to make art by pressing buttons on gadgets

Practitioner = I can do it but you can’t

Minimalist = a

Inverted commas, exclamation marks, colons, semi colons, random brackets = Best avoided unless you have an English Language qualification and actually know how to use them

Glaring typo = I choose to do art at school because I was no good at the proper subjects

Multi-media = Can’t paint or draw

Arts Council England = People with a large cheque book/God

Celebrates = Got some money from the Art Council to spend

Outstanding = Pleases the people with power

A journey = I haven’t worked it out yet

A portfolio = A pile of stuff

Sculptural forms = Lumps

Contextual = I struggled to make any sense of it now you can too

Gallery space = A space with white washed walls and slightly dated tracking lights

Challenging = No one likes it

Dynamic = I’m losing inspiration here

Enjoyable = I’ve completely lost inspiration


A tendency I have recently noticed is the use of a photograph on the artist statement of the person being promoted usually looking suitable arty. Nothing wrong with this, in fact I’ve noticed the supermarket chain Waitrose doing a similar thing on their packets of vegetables with a picture of the farmer who grow them and a nice little blurb saying something like ‘Farmer Jones has a passion for growing organic  sprouts’. Presumably the marketing people believed this might work, by putting a face to the product it will sell more. Ditto the artist.

The Tate in its recent rehang took the commendable step of removing the curator’s text boxes displayed next to works and now I think that it is easier to interpret the piece as you like without this piece of text getting in the way. They seemed to have realised the silliness of labels in general.

So why are we expected to try to define ourselves with a statement at all is an interesting point. The irony of all this is that we get annoyed when someone else tries to label us or fit us into a stereotype as an artist, but for whatever reason we are more than willing to do it to ourselves. So hey guys, next time you have to write a statement please call a spade a spade and not ‘a contextual journey informing my contemporary multi-media studio practices…..’


So tell us, what’s in your artist statement?


Andrew MacDonald Artist

Andrew MacDonald makes a living running a pottery studio called “The Pot Shop” since 1987.   The shop is located at 16 Steep Hill in Lincoln, Lincolnshire in the U.K. You are invited to stop by the studio anytime to say hello or you can give him a call at 01522 528994  or email him at: andrew.macdonald33[at]   His passion for growing organic sprouts is unknown.



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About the Author

Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.

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