When You Should Start Documenting Your Art Collection

Image Credit: Terill Welch

The question is: when does it get risky avoiding a documentation strategy?

“No matter how many pieces you have, you should keep excellent records,” recommends Kimberly Maier, representative of the Association of Professional Art Advisors (APAA).

These records include bill of sale, provenance, and all appraisal records.

“Whether you keep [the artwork] for the rest of your life or sell it, these are important things that are integral to any kind of estate planning or long-range gifts,” Maier continues.

Although best practices are to start collecting documentation with your first purchase of art, a robust artwork management system may seem like too much with only a few pieces in your collection.

We spoke with Maier on some of the basics of managing your art collection.

Although she agrees that keeping excellent records is a pertinent part of maintenance at any stage, she notes that after you own 12 pieces of value, a serious documentation strategy should be implemented.

“It’s really most efficient to keep it in a database,” she advises.

A database of your provenance documents and images will be your first resource in the tragic event of theft, fire or flood damage, and any unpredictable loss.

Be consistent, start small, and choose your pace for processing paperwork.

Get more tips about documenting your collection and tracking provenance documents, images, professional contacts, and appraisal information in our Essential Guide to Collecting Art. Sign up for Artwork Archive's free 30-day trial to see how our easy-to-use inventory tool can save a lot of time and headache.