Art Inventory Part 2: Let’s Get Comprehensive

Inventory Images

This is part 2 of a two part blog article on inventories. If you are interested in maintaining your own art inventory, I am teaching a class at the Bloomington Theatre and Art Center this September. In this class you will learn why a strong and comprehensive inventory is important, the roles your inventory serves, and strategies and practices for building and accurately documenting your inventory. Read below to get a sneak peak at some of the helpful tips for starting your own inventory.

Inventory. Just the word tends to make artists cringe. Inventories list images of your body of work, descriptions, measurements, special exhibits and collections, and cost of goods. An art inventory is used as an accurate log of your body of work, a documentation of your creative history, a demonstration for tax purposes that you are a professional artist, an aid with insurance claims, a visual and informative tool to exhibit the scope of your arts career to galleries and interviewers, and as a compliment to artwork providing descriptive details when applying to opportunities, grants, and shows.

Part 2: Now that you have begun your own art inventory or have a basic framework of information to work with here are some ideas to build it into a better inventory.

A basic inventory will be in short a page. A thorough inventory can be a page or more. For my work above, I have three pages noting all important information. The first page has a more thorough list of information about the piece itself. In addition to date, size, price, location and image (as listed on the basic inventory blog article) I have included other categories:

Series: Is the piece a diptych or triptych, is there a small series of related works?

Condition: Is the work framed, wired, ready to hang, is it signed? Is it in good or bad shape?

Labeled: Is the work labeled with the title, artist and date?

Touchups: Any necessary changes or repairs needed?

Copyright: Is the work copyrighted? If so, what is the registration information and date?

Photographed: How is the work documented? Is it professionally or self documented? If you wish to get technical, you can list if you have both high and low resolution images, or where you have the images saved on your computer.

Permissions: When you submit or agree to certain exhibitions and opportunities, we often allow people to have a limited access or permission to the work whether that is printing the information and image in a catalog, including the image in an online gallery or to release the image to a media or press resource. Log what you have allowed in the permissions section.

Submissions: Use the submissions area to document shows, grants and opportunities you have applied to. This is where I tend to list shows I submitted to but did not participate in or was rejected from. If I am interested in the future to apply to the same show or opportunity, I know what work I used to apply to it.


You can also update the exhibition section as well. In addition to title of the show, venue, dates of the exhibition, commission and if a sale took place and any additional notes, consider adding the sections below:

Type: Was the show group, juried, invitational, partner or solo?

Venue address: Where was the space or gallery located?

Website: What is the gallery or space address?

Curator and Juror: Include anyone who you came in contact with during the exhibition process and also their contact information, phone number or email. Note if someone is a gallery director or other title rather than curator or juror so if you need to contact them again in the future, you properly address them.

Exhibition Documents: What documents or information do you have stored in your files in relation to the exhibition? This can also include saved emails in your inbox.

Award: Did you receive an award during the show?

Commission: What was the gallery’s commission percentage? Note if a sale took place and what cut of the sale you made.

I always leave a blank exhibition section so if I submit and show the piece during the year, I can pencil in the information into my inventory and update it later. I will write in changes to my inventory throughout the year, and then every January I officially update my document on the computer and print off a fresh new copy.

The third page includes press, promotions and comments from viewers. I also add installation notes and additional notes. 

Once you have your inventory completed, have a digital and a hard copy version. Sort your inventory in a manner that makes it easy to access necessary information. For me, alphabetically is the easiest. Other ways include sorting by year, exhibition, series or medium. If it helps, consider making a table of contents to help you locate works listed in your inventory too. 

Make sure you can update your inventory as changes occur! Maybe keeping a word document is not for you, but consider using Excel or Access which has cells and forms to simply input information. There are numerous artist computer software that you can purchase to also use for your inventory. The key is to keep it simple and user friendly. You won’t update your inventory if it gets complicated. Most artist inventory software packages cost money and often have many more options than necessary. The images of my inventory above is two years of documenting and updating, so start small and update from there! Good luck!

2 Comments on “Art Inventory Part 2: Let’s Get Comprehensive”

  1. I actually have created my own system for inventory!. After doing initial research, I found that many of these software programs had too many options or cost way too much information. The fees were outrageous – a few grand for one I looked up! By designing my own system, I was able to include what I needed to manage in my own inventory while eliminating the extra fluff these programs have. In addition to saving money, I also saved my inventory in a digital format and printed a hardcopy so it wont be lost in the “cloud” or experience some technical difficulties with a software program.

    I teach other artists how to manage their inventories with my organizational method at the Bloomington Theatre & Art Center. The next time I teach it will be this new spring semester. Here are the details as their website is current for the winter courses:

    Wednesdays March 18th and April 1st from 6:00 – 8:00 PM
    2 Sessions
    Bloomington Theatre and Art Center
    $47 Members / $51 Non-Members
    Includes inventory binder and workbook
    Available in the spring session – contact BTAC to enroll now

    Inventory. Just the word tends to make artists cringe. Inventories list images of your body of work, descriptions, measurements, special exhibits and collections, and cost of goods. An art inventory is used as an accurate log of your body of work, a documentation of your creative history, a demonstration for tax purposes that you are a professional artist, an aid with insurance claims, a visual and informative tool to exhibit the scope of your arts career to galleries and interviews, and as a compliment to artwork providing descriptive details when applying to opportunities, grants and shows. In this workshop you will learn why a strong and comprehensive inventory is important, the roles your inventory serves and strategies and practices for building and accurately documenting your inventory.

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