Managing A Creative Legacy

There are many reasons why some of us become responsible for a creative legacy, and as many reasons why we do not always get the collections we have in shape to serve the artist, fans, the public, and the beneficiaries of the creative legacy. Far too many artists in all creative fields leave behind collections with little or no direction for heirs or estates on how their work should be preserved for private enjoyment, public display, or even for sale or auction.

Fortunately, POBA provides some basic and practical tips to get you started and to give you help at any point in the process of managing a creative legacy in any medium.

While details may vary different arts forms, the basic steps recommended by POBA include:

  • Catalog fully – Create a master list of all the works. For visual artworks, include each object’s title, dimensions, medium, and date of creation. For musical, film and performance artworks include the title, any co-creators, and applicable copyrights, licenses, and contractual agreements and their dates of expiration. Incomplete works should also be cataloged. Untitled works should be given some distinctive names such as “Untitled 5” and include some description of the work to aid search and retrieval.
  • Preserve properly – Arrange for the proper storage of original works that suits the medium, whether paintings, film, recordings, scores, writings, or other kinds of materials.
  • Create a digital record – For visual arts, take true-to-color digital photos of each piece. All musical and film works should be transferred into digital form to ensure that they do not degrade or lose integrity, while writings should be scanned or photographed. For digital images or for audio or video recordings, distinguish between draft and final files and save in both high and lower resolution versions. Create an accurate and comprehensive biography of the artist that that includes major life events (especially those that influenced the artist’s works), an artistic statement, and highlights of their works, exhibitions, and performances, if any. This can be adapted for different uses.
  • Promote carefully – Focus on the right audiences for your artist’s work. Identify outlets that are most likely to be interested in the type of work you have to promote, market or sell. Develop and practice presenting a brief oral “pitch” about the artist and the works with someone you know before you go public.
  • Sell wisely – Avoid selling all of the collection at once or offering exclusive long-term licenses. This may devalue each work, whereas careful selling may increase market value for sale, auction and licensees. Be judicious in donating works for charitable auctions: selling items too cheaply can undercut the value of the entire collection and/or of individual works by the same artist.
  • Consult experienced professionals – Whether preserving and promoting a creative legacy yourself or preparing it for someone else to handle, skilled professionals can help you each step of the way. Archivists, appraisers, estate attorneys, accountants, editors, arrangers  and others can either properly advise you or do much of the work outlined above.


Find more Tips from estate lawyers, gallerists, archivists, and other POBA experts. Check back often for updates, too!

Contact the POBA Concierge if you need help with online and physical storage, archiving, cataloging, appraising and more to preserve, protect, and promote a creative legacy or collection.

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Questions? Contact Us.