Art management software: how to choose the right system?

Managing an art collection is labor-intensive. Having a software system to keep track of the artworks and their records (invoices, appraisals, images, etc) saves the collector time. It also reduces the risk of artworks or important documents getting lost. There are a number of good systems on the market (Artsystems, Trov and Collectrium, to name a few) so choice is not an issue. However when buying a software system there are many considerations to take into account: pricing, ease-of-use and security but also access and data management.

Depending on the size and activity of the collection the required level of access will change. A small collection in one home can probably do with a basic system that is kept on a standalone computer (back it up!). However, for a collection in multiple locations (homes, storage, on loan to museums) or an active collector requiring round-the-clock access to the value of his portfolio, a cloud-based system could be more appropriate. Many collection management systems, including that of Collectrium, a company whose advisory board I recently joined, have developed apps for iPhone and iPad which makes worldwide, 24-hour access a possibility.

The purpose of having an art management system is to have all vital information related to the collection in one place. The collector should be able to quickly view his records rather than having to look for them in different locations. A system is useless if it does not contain accurate and up-to-date information. This is a real problem for large or active collections because things will go missing. Therefore, even before buying a collection management system, it is important to decide on a data management protocol and make one person responsible for data entry.