Why It's More Important Than Ever to Document Your Artwork

Artwork Archive | April 27, 2020 (Updated July 12, 2023)

Photo by David Barajas on Unsplash

What do we know about art and history, and why do we know it? 

As we emerge into a post-pandemic world, we reflect on the events of 2020—a time that we will record in history books of the future. And we’ve been thinking more about the power of recording present events.

Largely, what we know about the past is constructed by what has remained from that time—whether that's records, accounts, or objects. However, our understanding of the past is limited. Not every perspective, event, and creation lives to tell the tale. 

In the 2020s, things are different.

The powered systems of documentation and record-keeping are shifting and changing. Now we are easily able to take the power and hierarchy out of history by recording and preserving our own accounts. We are in a moment of historical democratization. We can now create and preserve our histories versus having the people or organizations in positions of power decide what is worth remembering. 

It's more important than ever to create a record of your artwork.  Your story is worth telling, sharing, and remembering.


How will your artwork contribute to the global narrative?

With the enforced pause on our normal lives in response to this pandemic, there’s never been a better time to reflect on and to record your art. 

The way that we record our present now influences how people in the future will understand the past.

Up until recently, it was more difficult to make it into an archive and into history as an artist. In the past only certain artists who were either in positions of power themselves or were supported by institutions or people in power were documented. A lot has changed. The democratization of the archive allows us to better record our present. We can now better document our many voices and perspectives. 

Artists are vital to remembering our collective cultural history. 

Documenting yourself in the present allows you to be a part of future history, whether that's for the benefit of your family or friends or for people in the future trying to understand and discover the past. 

The digital world lets us easily document ourselves in ways that we have never been able to before. Read on for a practical step by step guide to digitally recording yourself and why your voice matters. 


Start by documenting your artworks with high-quality photographs.

When it comes to archiving, photographs of your work are almost as important as the work itself. 

You don’t need to be a professional photographer or have a professional-grade camera to take high-quality photos. 

You’ll want to give a sense of your work as a whole and in detail with your photographs. You’ll want at least one image with all of the artwork in the shot. Photographing larger artworks is more difficult as you can’t easily just throw them up on a white wall, but there are tips and tricks to capture large-scale works. You might want to have details of your works documented. Take photos of up-close details, the work in sections, or of the frame. You can always delete extra images later. Don’t worry about taking too many images, it's always beneficial to have options. 

How you photograph works will change depending on if the work is 3D, 2D, and with what type of equipment you are working with. You can also scan small flat works to digitize them instead of taking photographs. When photographing, you will want to pay attention to lighting, displaying, and editing photos afterward.

Once you have your work photographed you’ll need a system in place to archive your works. While a spreadsheet is a sufficient way to get started, using an inventorying system allows you to include a more complete record of your artwork along with the high-resolution images. 

Ready to start inventorying? Here’s how.


Don't ignore the importance of proper provenance.

When writing yourself and your work into history it is critical that you record the provenance of your various works. 

Provenance is an artwork’s history of ownership and exhibit history. 

In the past few years, museums and private collectors have scrambled to try to figure out the histories and provenances of works. Museums are working to repatriate objects and provide accurate information about their artwork, including past owners, false ownership, and the histories of stolen works.

If you start to record your work’s provenance now, it is less likely that this information will be lost over time. Provenance matters to you and to collectors. Many artworks are physically lost, others we lose information about. Make sure to keep track of both the physical and the informational aspects of your works as they are essential to building your artistic legacy.

In Artwork Archive, an organizational and management platform for artists, you are able to build out your exhibition history for each artwork and provide your buyers with a certificate of authenticity when you make a sale. This negates the potential for misinformation and helps your buyer start to record and keep provenance records.  

As you show your work in different exhibitions or have it on loan in galleries, you should be keeping track of this information. Artwork Archive allows you to build exhibit histories for works and keep track of exactly where works are at any given time using the locations feature on the platform. 

You can also assign works to locations such as galleries, exhibitions or storage and to keep track of where you sold work from and who you sold to. 


Connect your work to its context with your artist statement.

As much as you may want it to, your artwork doesn't speak for itself. 

What makes some art within the art historical canon so interesting is that it is in response to the time it is coming from. Having an idea of not only what you are making, but why you are making it in the present will help other people contextualize your work in the future.

Artwork Archive allows you to document, connect, and explain your artworks. With Artwork Archive you can record descriptions and information about each individual work, create descriptive tags, and organize works into collections. 

To build your history as an artist, you should keep track of your statements and descriptions for past works and shows. Have a decided place to upload these files. On the Artwork Archive platform, you are able to store files like this in your My Documents section of your account.


Present yourself digitally all in one central place.

One reason that history-making is so challenging is that it is usually impossible to find all information in one place. Help people of the future avoid an art goose chase by organizing yourself now to provide all your information in one place. Consolidating and updating your digital presence is useful in the present for buyers and collectors to connect with you. A strong digital presence helps you to market yourself and your art. 

As the world becomes increasingly digital, we have the utmost control over our work and online presence. The abundance of searchable information allows us to eliminate the past challenge of historical recall. As information is accessible and comprehensive, there is less mystery and missing information about art and artists today.

Make sure that your online presence works for you and that this information is easy to find.

Each different type of online presence shows different things about you as a person and as an artist. You may use Instagram to connect with future buyers and to market yourself, Artwork Archive to document and record your work, and Twitter for sharing your ideas about current events. 

Putting all your digital platforms all in one place, like on your Artwork Archive public profile or website, makes piecing you together as a whole easier to do.


Write your own story with your artist bio.

Your bio gives you control over your own information and image.

With a well-crafted artist bio, you are able to present yourself now and in the future.

When creating your bio, think about your life as an artist as an elevator pitch. What are the important fact-building details that you leave out that you might want to have included? What are the essential details that you want to be in a print bio? 

Good bios are concise, accurate, and detailed. 

You can see some great examples of artist statements and bios when you click into artists' profiles in Artwork Archive’s Discovery platform.


Thinking ahead to a better-recorded future

We are excited to be a part of the growing world of digital history-making. We are within the many digital and crowdsourced art and history projects that help to write our different presents into the future.

By documenting your art now you are preparing for a future where you and other artists will be visible and researchable in ways that you never were before.

How do you want you and your art to be remembered? Act now with Artwork Archive. It’s easier than ever to create archives of your work that will benefit your art career in the present and establish your legacy for the future. 

You are able to not only create reports and manage your career with the Artwork Archive platform but to inventory and document yourself and your work for posterity. 

Record your story and document your artwork with Artwork Archive's free 14-day trial. 

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