The art of collecting

At events or art fairs, we rarely talk about management software for our own collection, and when we do, it's usually a toss-up between classic merchandise management programmes that are not tailored to art, in-house IT developments and "yes, we should take care of that sometime". There are doubts as to whether one's own collection is not far too small to be managed digitally and often collectors are surprised to hear that there is also a software solution specifically for the management of collections and that it offers numerous advantages over the above approaches. This prompted us to launch an extensive collector survey in the spring of 2021 to find out what is particularly important to collectors and which tasks should ideally be performed with software in the first place.

At what point does a collection need software?

"It does not always depend on the size whether one needs a software. The decisive factor is how much movement they have, for example, if they are purchased regularly, lent out a lot or exchanged," our customer, Dr. Otto, explained to us from her many years of experience as a collection coordinator in Berlin. "I recommend that even small collections work with good software! You don't know how it will develop and it is also a question of appreciation when you collect art. This also includes the responsibility for the values, as well as love and affection to oversee it all."

What do collectors expect from inventory software?

Gaining or maintaining an overview

Where at the beginning the most important data was kept in a simple table, over time a complex network of information develops for each work. There are important documents and certificates, there are numerous images of works and perhaps even press reports. It is becoming increasingly important to keep track of all this data. 
Conclusion: The most important thing for collections is the management of the data that are available digitally, centralised and easy to find.

Growing with the collection and benefiting from digitization

A collection is not a static collection, but something dynamic: new works of art are acquired, works are borrowed and sold again. The collection changes, it grows, and focal points crystallize. Perhaps one day it will even become the subject of scholarly work or the estate of an institution.

"If you have a lot of movement in the collection, you need a good structure," added Dr. Otto. "The storage management, restorers, insurance companies ... Everyone always needs lists. Nowadays, you have to be able to save the many links and information sources and be able to search them effectively. That can only be done digitally."

The last year in particular has clearly shown us that it is becoming more and more natural to discover, get to know works of art and exhibitions online and also to make acquisitions. In direct contact with galleries, auction houses, museums and artists who also work with digital solutions, fast digital communication on both sides facilitates a smooth and professional exchange. Last but not least, work data and professional photos can be quickly transferred and used to document the new treasures.

Secure data storage

When it comes to storage location and data backup, however, the opinions of our respondents differed greatly. Some prefer a cloud solution in order to have their data secured on professional servers and to be able to access works and important information from anywhere. The others attach great importance to local data storage only on their own computer or server for complete control over sensitive data.

With Artbutler you have both options here quite uniquely: A cloud-based solution or a local variant.

Simplify tasks around the collection

Storing purchase and loan agreements, certificates of authenticity and provenance, creating insurance and storage lists and labels, and identifying locations. Assemble and output works with images as needed, whether as a PDF for insurance, online in password-protected showrooms for sharing with friends or curators, or on a website for external presentation of the collection. 
Many things are not thought of, especially in the initial collection-building phase, and many tasks arise only in the course of the collection's activity.

Many of our interviewees agreed on one thing: software is nowadays almost indispensable for a collection of almost any size and dynamics and saves a lot of time. Not least, because a software tailored can often save tedious research and other tasks in the future, that are otherwise not even thought of at first. 
We were particularly pleased to hear these statements, because that's what it's been all about for us since 2002: creating more time for art with software based on our customers' experience!

If you would like to know how art management software can support your collection, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss your requirements and give you an insight into the possibilities of our Artbutler database solutions. Get in touch with us!