Whether you are an artist or a collector, chances are that you’ll have a lot of art around the house, office or studio. You have probably said to yourself on many occasions that it’s time to make a list of your collection, to make sure that the works are adequately insured and don’t go missing. But a cataloging project seems quite daunting so it oftentimes gets postponed indefinitely.
How To Prepare An Art Inventory?
In reality, preparing and inventory of your art and collectibles is not that hard to do, as long as you understand it takes time and as long as you have a system. In other words, start in one room and systematically work your way, room by room, through the entire house so that you don’t miss works or get confused. What details to record? Artist name, title, date of creation, measurements and condition issues. Also prepare a succinct description of a work so that you’ll recognize it without its photograph (this seems silly until you have catalogued 30 similar-looking 19th Century landscapes). Photograph the piece and take detail shots of signatures and damages.
Gathering And Organizing Data
Paintings often have labels to the back and sculptures carry signatures and stamps that provide some of the information you are looking for. If you can’t find the title and date of the work on the piece, however, you may be able to find this in your paperwork (i.e. the sales invoice, which, hopefully, you have kept). Put all the information in an Excel spreadsheet so that you can easily keep track of it. You can always decide to transfer the data to a collection management system at a later date. Make sure to number each artwork, so that you can give the paperwork and photographs belonging to that artwork the same reference number.
The condition of an artwork can significantly affect its value. Artworks should be protected from UV rays, temperature fluctuations and of course accidental damage. It is equally important to document the artwork’s condition prior to shipping it. Most insurance claims are made for artworks that were damaged during transport. The purpose of a condition check is to make sure you can prove that any damages occurred in transit and not when the work was still in your home.
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How to do a basic condition check? Look carefully at the piece from all angles (for example if it is a painting, look at the back as well as the front). Describe any existing damages and their location on the artwork (i.e. chips on a frame or scuffs on a bronze sculpture) and write them down. The best thing is to have high resolution photographs of the artwork showing the artwork’s condition in detail. All this information will help in case you need to make an insurance claim.
Watch the webinar here to learn how cataloging, inventory management, and the efficient organization of your archives will preserve your art collection in the long term.