Resources for artists


How to keep records of your artwork

As an artist, it’s very important to keep accurate records of each artwork that you create. There are many reasons for this, including:

 

  • If you are selling an artwork, clients will want to know as much information as possible about the piece. You should also include these details on a Certificate of Authenticity.
  • If you are included in an exhibition, the curators will need accurate information to be able to present your work.
  • Extensive and accurate provenance (history of ownership and exhibitions) will support an artwork’s future value.
  • If you are shipping or exporting an artwork internationally, you will probably need to give comprehensive details about the work, including the materials used to create it.
  • Most successful artists look back on their early careers and wish they had kept better records. Imagine that one day you will have a whole archive dedicated to your art. Not just the finished pieces but the process of creating them and any sources of inspiration may also be interesting to people.

 

What records should you keep

 

Artworks:


1. TITLE.

2. DATE. Make sure you know which year you started and finished the piece. If you created the artwork over multiple years, state the range e.g. 2018-2020.

3. MEDIUM. Record any materials that were used to create the artwork.

4. SIZE. Record the artwork’s size in cm (from small to big). If the artwork is framed, record the framed size separately.

5. LOCATION. Make a note of where the artwork is located so that you can keep track of it, or who the purchaser was if you have sold it.

6. PHOTOGRAPHS. You may not always be in possession of the physical artwork, so make sure you have good photos of it. Then you can still include the piece in portfolios and have an overview of all your work.

7. COPY OF THE CERTIFICATE OF AUTHENTICITY. Make sure to keep a copy of every Certificate of Authenticity that you send to clients. This may be crucial for verifying a work in future.

8. NOTES. Any other information such as the condition of the artwork, details of exhibitions it has been shown in, the price if it has been sold, any care/conservation instructions; any installation instructions (e.g. if it is a sculpture with many parts).

 

Exhibitions:

 

1. PHYSICAL EXHIBITIONS. While a physical exhibition is time-limited, photos can be forever. Take as many high-quality photos of your work in the space as you can. Keep multiple copies of any promotional material created in relation to the exhibition (e.g. flyers, a press release, a list of works, a curatorial statement, posters, advertising). If you can, have a visitor book at exhibitions and keep the contact details of people who are interested in your art.


2. DIGITAL EHXIBITIONS. If you are involved in an online exhibition, make sure you take screenshots of your work in the virtual space. Once the exhibition has been taken down, these will provide valuable visual proof. Download and save any additional material related to the exhibition.


Additional records:

 

1. PRESS. Traditionally, artists have always collected physical press features in newspapers or magazines about themselves. In this increasingly digital world, make sure you download or screenshot any online features so that you are not reliant on a particular website staying up. You could even save social media mentions and posts about your art.


2. SALES RECORDS. Make sure you save the details of anyone who has bought your art. This way, you can keep them informed of any exhibitions or developments in your career, and convert them from a one-time buyer into a serious collector. If you are selling works in editions, such as limited-edition prints, keep careful track of each copy sold and the buyer of each one.

 

3. COMMUNICATIONS & CONTACTS. If you receive good feedback on your art, it can be a great encouragement in the future. Consider saving those communications in a dedicated folder, alongside any correspondence with useful contacts.

 

4. TIMESHEETS & COSTS. You might want to keep extra information just for yourself, for example, how long did it take you to create an artwork? How many hours, days or even weeks? This can be helpful when it comes to pricing your artwork — your time and effort are valuable. 

Likewise, you could keep track of how much you are spending on your art practice (materials, studio space, etc.). This way you will know much income you will realistically need to support your practice, and what your expenses are.

 

How should you keep records?

 

Ideally, keep both digital and physical versions of these records. Keep a running inventory sheet of your artworks, either on a spreadsheet or use free database software. Make sure to back up your digital records and store the physical records in a safe place.