On any given day, Carrie Seid, a sculptor and mixed-media artist in Tucson, Arizona, has a couple dozen works that are “out,” meaning unsold but not in her studio. Some are consigned to commercial art galleries – there are five galleries in five different states – and others that are in the hands of art consultants (eight in five states). Then, of course, there are far more that are “in” her studio: completed, in progress or part of a public commission. At a manufacturing company, an inventory manager would be in charge of keeping track of where everything is but, in the sole proprietorship that is Carrie Seid Artist, she has to keep abreast of “where are my works, are they getting dusty, are any out on approval with collectors, has anything sold.”
Some artists rely on their memory to keep track of all this or use file cards or, if they have advanced to the 1990s, use an Excel spreadsheet. Seid had used a spreadsheet for some years before learning about the eight year-old company Artwork Archive, and now information on 112 of her works (“in” and “out”) are organized and managed in the Cloud.
Several thousand artists around the world now store images of, and information on, their artwork on the site, which costs between $6 and $19 per month, depending upon the number of images stored (100 objects at 10 separate locations for the most basic service, an unlimited number of both at the premium level). On a Public Profile Page, an image of each artwork will include the title of the piece, its dimensions and medium, date, subject matter, an inventory number where it is located and its price, as well as contact information for the artist. Artwork Archive is not only used by artists and collectors seeking to manage their inventory of artworks but by potential buyers for whom the site is an online source of available material. Justin Anthony, a co-founder of Artwork Archive, noted that many artists send links to galleries where they are interested in having their works shown. “It helps artists present themselves professionally,” he said.
Other pages indicate an artwork’s exhibition history, information about the artist, if, where and when a particular piece was sold, indicating the retail price paid and what the artist received, information about the buyer, even sales receipts.
Yet other services provide calendars (reminding users, for instance, when a proposal or an application to be in a particular show is to be submitted), charts that reveal where most sales are taking place and how one year compares to another, and storage of contact information on clients, suppliers and galleries. “It is a user-driven design,” Anthony said, with each artist’s pages of information stored in the Cloud, making it accessible from anywhere. He noted that security has always been a top priority and that the company protects users’ privacy, adding that there have been no data breaches since the company was formed in 2010. More worrisome for artists, he claimed, are personal computer hard drives that die, particularly when there are no back-ups, resulting in them losing information about their careers and work.
Sawyer Rose, a sculptor and installation artist in Fairfax, California, explained that she first heard about Artwork Archive from an artist who “kept losing track of inventory.” Some things were written down on cards somewhere, while other information was in the computer (she hoped). All pretty chaotic. “It helped me with inventory management,” Rose said. “A gallery would call me, saying ‘We have a client looking at a particular piece. What else do you have right now?’ I can find out right away, whereas before it would take me having to look here and there.” Additionally, scheduling the filing of applications – for shows, grants, residencies and other opportunities, when a particular piece would be back from one show in time to be in another show – consumed more time than it should have until she became an Artwork Archive subscriber.
Prior to Artwork Archive, Rose used an Excel spreadsheet, which she called a “hot mess. It had a file folder system that was reasonably well organized, but there were versioning problems, such as which image to use. That was solved with Artwork Archive.”
Excel is popular, but there have been other systems that artists have used. Lori Putnam, a painter in Charlotte, Tennessee, had been “a huge fan of Filemaker Pro,” but there were “some hassles. I’d get asked, ‘is a particular picture for sale and at what price?’ and it took me a while to find that out. When I made a sale, I had to manually enter all the information, which took time.” After learning about, and trying out, Artwork Archive, she made the switch, finding that the annual cost was between a quarter and a third of the price of Filemaker Pro, “because I don’t need to regularly update my software and licensing” anymore.
Artwork Archive is not the only online artwork inventory management system available to artists and collectors. Art Systems has a StudioPro software program that “generates a choice of over 140 clear, concise, thorough, flexible and editable reports and documents in Microsoft Word — with images — in just a click. StudioPro’s reference module allows you to automatically format and cross-link provenance, exhibition history, and bibliography records with multiple artworks simultaneously, creating artwork fact sheets and a real-time catalogue raisonné. StudioPro works with other applications, including email, and facilitates sharing information with vendors, colleagues, or partners via Artsystems’ wide range of integrated solutions.” (Subscriptions start at $250 per month.) ArtLogic stores unlimited information on clients, supplies, and “artworks, including location, purchase details, insurance values, condition, provenance, shipping, etc.,” as well as helps artists create invoices and specially curated Web pages for collectors (ranging in price from $49 to $160 per month). Collectrium is yet another, starting at $90 per month, and would appear to be more targeted to collectors of art and other objects who need to manage what they own, while Collector Systems is focused primarily on museum, art advisor, art appraiser and foundation client needs (from $85 to $150 per month).
By Daniel Grant