Collector Best Practices cover imageImage Credit: Kathryn Abernathy

An Artwork's Journey is Part of Its Story

Picture yourself at an art auction before the bidding has started.

You’re reviewing the pieces for sale and two strike your attention. They are similar in size and style, and are created by the same artist.

The first is listed as “Woman on Couch,” 1795.

The second is catalogued as “Woman Considers the Future of France in Living Room.” It includes details on the artist’s involvement in the French Revolution, and how this painting was created post revolution in the year 1800. The artist’s mother was a member of the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women, a short-lived organization during the French Revolution which focused on women’s rights and gender equality. The first recorded owner was a French history professor living in Maine, who then lent it to the Museum of French History in Paris for the last 15 years. Through its meticulous purchase history, the painting's value has doubled since it was first brought to the United States.

Though this scenario is hypothetical, a similar situation could affect a buyer’s decision. The history behind a piece may trace its rising value, but it also provides context to personality and a story to fully understand the piece.

These details are recorded when you start to archive your collection, as more is recorded throughout the time you own it. As you begin to work with art appraisers and gallery owners to collect the documentation and history behind a piece, these details become invaluable. The crucial next step is to safeguard your records using a simple art collection management tool.

Why Careful Documentation Increases an Artwork's Value

Artwork Archive gives collectors a secure and powerful inventory tool that organizes and analyzes the health and longevity of your collection. Unlike other software solutions, Artwork Archive's tools visualize the value of your collection so you can see its purchase history, appraisal values, geographic locations, and your investment over time.

These are four ways your documentation can increase and protect your art collection's overall value.

1. Increase Your Art Collection’s Value by Recording Provenance

Authenticating provenance can have a direct correlation with the value of the piece, according to Rosemary Carstens of Wells Fargo. Especially if the artist is no longer living, the recorded history of the piece’s owners and whereabouts is the first step to confirming its creator and origins. Advisors and appraisers will consult the documentation to confirm an artwork’s legitimacy. The details that arise in the ownership can lead to increased value.

“Scan the paperwork to create a digital record—and don’t forget to create that all-important backup copy to store elsewhere,” Carsten adds. In Artwork Archive, all documents and files are stored on the cloud—meaning you won’t lose them in a computer disaster and you can access them from any device with Internet.

Take every opportunity you can to learn something about your art. If the artist is still living, take advantage of the opportunity to learn the emotion and intention behind each piece you own. If the artists is no longer living, chat with appraisers and gallery owners who are familiar with the work and its significance to the grander scheme of the artist’s body of work and the art world. These details need to be recorded for reference. Eventually, your art collection will become too large for you to remember them all. You also want your art managers and family members, that you grant access, to have this information.

Image courtesy of Patricia Finley


2. Protect Your Art Collection’s Value in the Face of Theft

An itemized record of your art collection will be your first resource when responding to a theft. This will hold all the documents when proving that the art was yours and where it was located before it was stolen. The most updated values and appraisals are what you will be reimbursed for through your insurance. Therefore, having the most recent value documented is the only way to be compensated for the highest value of your artwork.

With Artwork Archive, you can generate and export reports that reflect all the information your insurance company needs to file a claim.

3. Enhance Your Art Collection’s Value by Documenting Its Evolution

The progression of your collection is important to your portfolio. For instance, the first piece that sparked your interest in Neolithic Ceramics has a story to tell as you acquire more. A well-documented collection gives your artwork the detail and personality that it needs to give your collection an increased value. A detailed development of an art collection affects the integrity of your hard work as a collector and your pieces. When you neglect to document the history of a piece of art it not only compromises the significance, but the value may be affected, as well.

4. Preserve the Increasing Value of Your Art Collection for the Future

Understanding your investment is pivotal in caring for your art collection and your overall net worth.

When you manage the value of your collection with Artwork Archive, you can generate reports that will outline your collection’s worth from day one to the present. It’s also possible to analyze worth based on location and see a geographic visualization of your art collection and value.

When you preserve the value of your collection, you preserve your overall worth for not only yourself, but your family, too. This is how you will plan your estate, which will tranfser your collection's legacy through your family’s vein.

Documenting the work in your collection is only part of a successful art collection. Learn more tips and best practices in our free e-book, Essential Guide to Collecting Art.