What details to include in your art inventory?

In a perfect world, everyone would have an appraisal and inventory of personal items in case of an unexpected life event.  If you are like most people, this is not feasible.  When asked what information is needed, most insurance companies will provide a list for customers.

Here is the list I use when inventorying art, before I start researching an item to determine value:

  • Artist
    • Note any biographical information about the artist
  • Title
  • Medium
  • Size
    • Include the sight size, the art work and the frame
  • Signature
    • How did the artist sign the piece? Is the piece numbered? Are there any other details on the front of the piece?
  • Purchase details/Provenance
    • Include any information about price, seller, location that may become pertinent
  • Subject matter/description
    • This includes a description of the frame
  • Current location
  • Condition
  • Current picture
  • Comments


… and the list goes on and on.  Include any information big or small that you know or observe about the piece.  If you do not have some of the information, it is okay.  Just include what you can.  The more information provided makes for a faster identification or in some instances a faster appraisal.

In case of an emergency or life event, it always helps to have accumulated this information in advance.  Once you have compiled the information, make copies and let your lawyer or loved ones know where your are keeping this information.  If you are going to bequeath an item to a specific person, this would be a good place to record it.

If purchasing new art, retain a copy of the artist and/or seller’s business card and a copy of the receipt if possible.

If you only have time for a quick inventory, the most important aspects to record are: artist name, medium, size and any purchase information you may have.  If you do not have time for even that aspect, take pictures!


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