Maintaining Your Art Collection: The Art Catalogue

There may come a time when an art enthusiast has built up an extensive collection, or pieces are displayed in several locations, or a collector wants to have their collection appraised for resale, review for insurance purposes, or for estate planning. For whatever the reason, a thorough catalogue of an art collection ensures that collectors know exactly what they have, where it is located, and vital details for valuation and planning.

What is an “Art Catalogue”?

Simply put, an art catalogue is a list of what an art collector has in his or her possession. Where a small assortment of artwork may be easy to manage, some collectors have 20, 50 ,100, or many more pieces in several locations, including storage. For many pieces, you may have a story you wish to remember, either about the process of purchasing the art, something about the artist, or even details about the subject matter itself. Whether in written form, in a created spreadsheet, or in a cataloging program, it is not difficult to maintain good records of your artwork.

Preparing your Art Catalogue

Once you have determined that an art catalogue will benefit your collection, you should decide how you want to organize it. If your collection is large and varied, you may want to break your pieces up by:

  • Artist
  • Genre
  • Medium
  • Series Name

There is no set way to organize your art catalogue; if it makes sense to you, the collection owner, you have the freedom to break down the lists in recognizable groups. You should consider what will make appraisal and insurance information easy to access, and numbering pieces provides a unique method of identifying individual works which doesn’t require any additional details to obtain.

Details to Include in your Art Catalogue

The more details you can provide for every piece, the easier it will be for you—and others—to locate the works and obtain valuable information. Some of the key details about each piece you may want to access quickly include:

  • Artist
  • Important Dates (when commissioned, finished, purchased or obtained)
  • Medium (knowing the right methods to preserving different mediums)
  • Title
  • Location (where its displayed or stored)
  • Photographs
  • Certificate of Authenticity
  • Notes of damage/preservation
  • Last appraisal (providing this information on its own allows you to schedule appraisals)
  • Unique history of the piece, the artist, or the subject matter

Methods of Cataloging Art

Many collectors have created spreadsheets to manage their collections, simply adding new pieces, taking photographs, and maintaining originals and photocopies of all supporting documentation. However, with extensive collections, this can become an overwhelming task. For instance, if you have 20 landscape oil paintings of the same era, or 10 from the same artist, would it be time-consuming to find the information on a spreadsheet and actual photographs and documentation from a file cabinet?

Software to Help You Maintain Your Art Catalogue

In recent years, the market has been flooded with many choices in art management software. However, unless you have a collection valued in the hundreds of thousands, need assistance managing acquisitions and donations, or loan pieces out for display by galleries and museums, you may want to consider software to help you manage your collection. Management software can offer features like:

  • Multiple classifications of works
  • Customizable fields
  • Manage loans to museums
  • Handle storage of pieces
  • Automate preservation, appraisals & insurance updates
  • Create customized invoices, lists & labels

One of the best reasons to invest in management software is for sheer scalability. No matter the size of your collection, or amount of art activity you participate in, your art catalogue is organized and ready to be accessed. With cloud storage offered in many platforms, you can obtain details, reports, and view data from any location.

If you are considering art cataloguing, or wanting to upgrade or expand your current cataloguing system, Sybaris Collection has a network of art professionals to assist you in your search. From finding the perfect work to add to your collection, shipping and display options, to appraisals and cataloging, we are here to guide you through your art collecting journey.