How to Create an Inventory Database of your Artworks

There are many reasons for creating an art inventory – whether you are an artist, a gallery or a museum. A well organised database will help you to prepare exhibitions, to write press releases, to update your website and to simplify all social media activities.

Creating an Art Inventory Database for Social Media

Social media seems to be spontaneous. This is what we love about it: the Instagram snapshot of the artist’s studio, behind-the-scenes-views, insights that are not staged… We don’t really like the idea of scheduling and strategy on social media altogether.

But… for a consistent webpresence on website, blog and social media it is still a very good idea to prepare and organize your stuff in advance. It will make life so much easier when it is done. Once all photos of your artworks are in the database (in different sizes for print, website and social media) and with all the correct information you should have access to them on all devices and can easily share whenever and from wherever you are.

Using File Hosting Services and Excel to get organized

One way to keep your photos organized and accessible on mobile is to upload them to a file hosting service like Dropbox or SpiderOak.

The basic folder should be a complete database of all your artworks in chronological order in high resolution and best quality. Make sure to name your artworks starting with an “inventory number” (e.g. 25_compositioninblack_1990_60x70.jpg). This way your list will stay in order. You can curate your complete database by favorizing the artworks you like best. The ones that are favorited on mobile are also accessible offline – very convenient when you meet someone on the go and want to show the kind of artwork you are doing. The curated (chronological) folder with all favorited photos will probably also be the one you show gallerists or collectors on your phone or tablet.

The folder should also contain spreadsheets with additional information: All artworks listed with titles, year, dimensions, (weight), edition, status, (price), categories… You can easily save different sheets of the same content organized according to inventory numbers, titles (in alphabetical order), dates or categories. In addition to that you can create one spreadsheet per artwork with all its information including exhibition history, caption and tags. Here an example:

Artwork Database created with Excel

Artwork Database created with Excel

This sheet was created with Excel. Once designed it can serve as a  template for all the other artworks as well.

Every artwork can have a subfolder with a photograph of the artwork in lower resolution for social media (maybe with watermark), photos of details, sketches, work in progress, exhibiton photos, room views, a spreadsheet with its information – everything that connects to that artwork.

Suggestions for more folders:

  • Exhibitions
    • Invitation Cards
    • Exhibiton Photos
    • Press Releases
    • Reviews
  • Biography
    • CV long
    • CV short
    • Artist Statement
    • Photos (Portrait)
  • Certificates
  • Publications
  • Invoices (Template)

Client’s data and bills? Information about your clients should not really be kept in the cloud. Most artists, galleries or museums don’t need this kind of data on the go – best kept on your PC. And don’t forget to backup your database to your computer as well – just in case.

Dropbox is free unless you need more space than 2GB. You can upgrade to 1TB for €99/year. SpiderOak offers better privacy protection than Dropbox. Pricing: Free for 2 GB, $129/year for 1TB.

See also a comparison of more file hosting services on wikipedia.

Using Flickr or Pinterest to create an art inventory

 Why not? Both Social Media platforms allow private uploads (secret boards, privacy settings: just me).

The artworks can be labelled, categorized, tagged – ready to share when wanted. There is massive free storage on Flickr and the apps look great.

Disadvantage: only suitable for photos. CV and reviews etc. have to be kept somewhere else.

Secret boards on Pinterest are super to stay organized and have everything accessible on mobile. No good for high resolution though. You can’t zoom in and the pictures stay small unless you download.

Using professional software/apps for an art inventory

The larger the collection the more necessary it becomes to use multiple search functions. Although you can really do a lot just with Excel and Dropbox, a professional art inventory software might become essential. We will have a closer look at some software solutions for artists, collectors, galleries and museums next month.

How to create a Databaseof your artworks-3

Featured photo: Art Collection of Prince Władysław Vasa (detail), 1626, ©Public Domain

Whistler's Mother
Nicolas Poussin, Inspiration of the Poet

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