Inventory. Just the word tends to make artists cringe. Inventories list images of your body of work, descriptions, measurements, special exhibits and collections, and cost of goods. An art inventory is used as an accurate log of your body of work, a documentation of your creative history, a demonstration for tax purposes that you are a professional artist, an aid with insurance claims, a visual and informative tool to exhibit the scope of your art career to galleries and interviewers, and as a complement to artwork providing descriptive details when applying to opportunities, grants, and shows.
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. Your inventory should include old, new, current, and sold works of art, it’s a comprehensive archive so you should not exclude any works of art. I even have unfinished paintings and projects listed. 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 for a grant or a show, all you need to do is reference your inventory for all the dimensions, dates, and notes about your work.
Start by saving all of your exhibition documents and bits of information that relate to your artwork. 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 artwork. I save all of mine in a folder in my filing cabinet.
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 artworks. 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 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 snapshot will suffice so you can quickly visually reference your inventory when you flip through it. If you have good documentation images, use them.
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.
Press: Did you receive any press for the exhibition?
Additional information: Include any additional information that your current inventory fails to cover, note installation requirements, where the piece was located, comments from viewers or ideas or thoughts for related or future works
Having one full page of information documenting each artwork is a great start to an inventory! Be sure to keep it easy and work on your inventory bit by bit.