Sunday, February 17, 2013

Creating a Comprehensive Art Inventory - Part 1

Art Inventory Part 1: Start With The Basics
Inventory. Just the word tends to make people cringe; especially if your day job is in retail. I'm going to break down how I started my own art inventory to make it as painless as possible. This blog article will help you begin to build a basic inventory. A secondary blog post will give you some more ideas and tips to make your inventory more thorough and information packed! So lets just start with the basics.
The purpose of your inventory is to be an information hub, you want your inventory to provide you with all of the important and necessary information about each work of art and where it has been.
What can your inventory be used for:
1.     An accurate log of your body of work
2.     Demonstration for tax purposes that you are a professional
3.     Aid with insurance claims (cover your bases… just in case something bad were to happen)
4.     Bring to galleries and interviews to give a visual of your scope of your arts career
5.     Assist with providing artwork details when applying to opportunities, grants and shows
Your inventory should include old, new, current and sold works of art. It is a comprehensive archive so you should not exclude any works of art. I even have unfinished paintings and projects listed in my inventory. When finished, your inventory should be your go-to location for anything you need to know about a piece. So, the next time you need to apply to a grant or a show, all you need to do is reference your inventory for all the dimensions, dates and notes about your piece.
I'm So Sweet, I Could Eat Myself

Start by saving all of your exhibition documents, and bits of information that relate to your artwork and your exhibitions. The more information you gather and save the easier it is to plug it into your inventory. Save exhibition prospectus, emails to galleries, or images of art work. I save all of mine in a folder in my filing cabinet. Some missing information you need can usually be recovered by simply Googling exhibition dates, venue locations or other info that is absent in your records.
Screen shot of Kate Renee’s inventory document
The goal of this project is to eventually have a comprehensive document file that can be updated annually that tracks and manages your art. When starting small, begin on a specific medium or series of art works. While I have many works of art and years of creation to update, I began with my acrylic paintings.
Begin by gathering the basic information. The crucial parts to include are listed below:
Date: When did you create the piece?
Medium: What materials is the work made with?
Size: Height, width and depth, note if the piece is two or three dimensional
Price: What is the wholesale or retail sale value? Or how much did you sell the piece for?
Location: Where do you store the piece? Is it currently on exhibition

Image: Include an image of your artwork. Do not worry about having this image be perfect. A quick snap shot will suffice so you can quick visually reference your inventory when you flip through it. If you have good documentation images, use them instead!
Exhibitions: Record the shows that each individual piece has exhibited in. Include important information: Title of the show, venue, dates of the exhibition, commission and if a sale took place and any additional notes you have about the show.
Press: Did you receive any press for the exhibition? What is the source?
Additional information: Include any additional information that your current inventory fails to cover, note installation requirements, comments from viewers or ideas or thoughts for related or future works
Having one full page of information documenting each art work is a great start to an inventory! Be sure to keep it easy and work on your inventory bit by bit.
The essential part is starting an inventory. Just get the basics down and have the most important information for your works. It is a lot easier to move on from here to create a more complex inventory when you have a solid base to work from. Once you have completed the basic inventory, move on to the second article on inventory to learn how to step up your inventory.
Head on over to to read the second post about creating art inventories. 
Kate Renee lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Kate graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in fine arts, art history, and a minor in design, and has worked with various galleries and museums in the Twin Cities including the Katherine E. Nash Gallery, Larson Art Gallery, American Swedish Institute and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. She designed the Solo Exhibition Program at Altered Esthetics.

Kate is building a national and international reputation with exhibitions throughout the United States. In 2013, Kate began a two year mentorship through the Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota alongside artist and mentor Jill Waterhouse. She was awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant. Kate is a frequent blogger on her artist development site and also guest blogs on sites including Local Artist Interviews. You can see Kate’s work on her website:

1 comment:

Layl said...

Great Article Kate Renee! We can all aspire to be this organized! I am curious what program you built your inventory in- is it anything fancy?