Inventory Your Art

At a recent Roundtable for working artists that POBA conducted for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Glen Wharton was among the experts whom POBA brought together for this event at the Newark Museum. Wharton focused on Preserving Art Works, and among his memorable words of advice he gave these practical steps on creating an inventory of your art works, whether you have created, collected, inherited or otherwise are responsible for an art collection.

If you have a collection of art works in any media or many media, these are the simple but important steps to take to ensure that you know clearly what your have in the collection, the condition of each work, and other pertinent information that will allow you to properly care for, store, maintain, value, and display the work(s) properly.

  • Create a comprehensive list. This list can be on paper, in an electronic application like a spreadsheet or in a special software inventory program. This list should include, at a minimum, the title, the artist, the medium (e.g., painting, sculpture, recording, etc.), the date created (if you know it), the date you acquired it and how you acquired it, and dimensions.
  • Photograph each work. These photographs can be taken with smart phones or personal cameras. It is not necessary to get professional photos taken unless you intend to sell the work(s) or seek professional representation. In that case, your photos should be of the highest possible quality. But even if you take smartphone photos, make sure to minimize shadows, glare, and to avoid extraneous objects in the picture.
  • Assemble both an electronic folder and a physical folder of the photo inventory. Connect the photos by name to the titles of the works, so it is easy to identify them at a later time and easy for others to connect the right photos with the works described in the list.
  • Keep the inventory updated. Add to the list and photo file when you have new works.
  • Store the documentation in several places. 
    • On a computer
    • On a second computer
    • On the Cloud
    • In hard copy through a physical copy stored off-site

And remember to store the updates, too!

Why create an inventory of your art works? There are many reasons to do this, whether you are a working artist or an art lover. Insurance is a key reason. If you think you will ever want to seek the replacement value of your works, your first conversation with an insurer will concern your ability to prove what you had and what you have lost. Recovery from disaster is another. While we hope disaster never strikes, locating, replacing, and restoring works can often depend on whether you are able to identify, locate, and describe the works that have been effected by a natural disaster like flood or fire. Other reasons, including maintaining the works properly, all benefit from a sound and comprehensive inventory.

The key is making the inventory process easy – easy to create, to store, to update and to access.

For more information, you can view POBA’s video tips on Creating An Inventory for Your Art.

dxIf you need help in archiving, documenting or managing a creative legacy, contact the POBA Concierge.