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The Importance Of Documenting Your Art Collection

By: Mike Watson - Updated: 21 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
The Importance Of Documenting Your Art Collection

As you develop your art collection, some form of documentation of the art may be necessary to ensure that you can keep good track of all of your artworks and the condition they are in. This can be particularly useful if you wish to prove an artworks authenticity or need to make an insurance claim on your art.

Cataloguing Your Art Collection

There is no single correct way of cataloguing your art collection, and all that really matters is that your system is coherent and can be easily understood by everyone involved in using and updating it. When cataloguing art you may wish to cover the following things:
  • Authorship of the artwork. In all probability you will categorise your art works in alphabetical order according to the surname of the artist that produced the work. This may link to a documentation of the authenticity of the art, especially important with well known artists who may have been faked.
  • Dates of the artwork. You will then probably categorise works by the same artist chronologically from the oldest to the newest piece of art.
  • Medium. A detailed description of the art medium is important from both an art-historical and a conservation point of view.
  • Condition. A simple overview of the condition of the artwork will do here; with a more detailed condition report held separately (see below).
  • Insurance value and details. A brief overview of Insurance valuation and details of the art collection can be useful for an 'at a glance' survey.
In all probability you will have both a copy of your records on your art collection on computer and a hard copy. Documents proving an artwork's authenticity and insurance documentation on your art will generally be in hard copy, and can simply be referred to in your computer catalogue.

Remember, computers are not fool proof and can crash, sometimes permanently, so it is essential to keep a regularly updated hard copy of the documentation on your art(perhaps just a print out of your computer catalogue).

Finally, ensure that you have everything well backed up. It is no good keeping your computer hard drive, paper documents on your art and artworks all on one site with no supporting documentation held elsewhere. A fire could leave you losing the entire lot.

Condition Report On Your Art

If other people will be involved in handling your artworks, regularly updated information on their condition will enable you to attribute liability for damage to the correct person, should damage occur.

It is important to check your existing condition report before the movement or restoration of an artwork. This way you will ensure that the work actually tallies with the existing report, before checking the work again after it has been moved/handled/restored, and noting any changes to its condition.

A condition report may contain several categories such as: Immaculate, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor, Very Poor, etc, with a space in each category to mark specific features and damage. You may also wish to mark the condition of the frame.

Documentation Of Your Art and Professionalism

The documentation of your art collection will set you apart from the casual collector, and convey professionalism to others interested in viewing your art collection. Art collecting involves more than just the collection and hanging of works. There is a responsibility on the part of the collector to look after their works and ensure that they can be appreciated for generations to come. Good documentation of your art is essential to this, and will help to give your art collection focus and shape.

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