There is a lot more to managing and maintaining an art collection than simply collecting. In the art business, knowing where something came from, how it got to where it is now (and what it cost to get there), and keeping track of it thereafter requires software and systems to store and manage the information. A professional art collection management solution will do much more than simply keep an inventory list of items. This solution must store all the relevant information about the work as well as gather information while facilitating the various business processes relating to activities around the work. The first step to improvement is ensuring all the processes are being facilitated.
Acquiring the item, transporting the item, preparing the item, showing the item, maintaining the item, selling the item… all of these business activities performed must not just be accounted for, they must relate back to the work of art and become part of its historical record. Art tends to move around. Traveling from collector to collector or to different galleries, works of art may change location and ownership or custodial care frequently. The origin of a work and the tracked purchase history, as well as the history of placements is among the critical information to be stored with each item. This most valuable data is part of the legacy of the work that any professional system should address. If information is power, then better retention and management of information regarding a work makes the entire collection stronger.
The location or exhibition of a work, its purchase history, the related museum and contact records – all this and more must be maintained and managed with each and every item in a collection. Essential data such as provenance, condition and value is certainly kept for each work, but the key to making a truly useful system for collectors and artists both is the ability to get all the needed data in a single view or report.
Having the inventory information available for invoicing and reporting is one thing, but also being able to connect or identify individual works and collections with relevant contacts is surprisingly valuable. Tracking other information items like costs associated with shipping or framing, or storing both an appraised value as well as an insured value, provides for a comprehensive record of the work and its properties and makes forms and documents preparation not only more accurate but more efficient and useful, too.
Art businesses are like many other “product”-based businesses in that they have e-commerce needs, they build websites to show off their catalogue, they use mobile applications to display items, and they find much higher efficiency and agility when the websites and mobile applications work with the same real-time inventory data that the rest of the system works with. The goal is to achieve measurable results through improved efficiencies, and that comes from improved information management and integrated systems. Centralized computing models and connected cloud services establish the foundation.
Cloud hosting, remote access and mobile technologies, and location-based solutions are all part of the package for businesses involved in the business of art these days. Implementing a hosting solution which enable anytime/anywhere access to business applications and information is often the first key to unlocking the better and more efficient art business.
Whether it is collecting, selling or showing, users involved in the business of art need secure access to all their information whether they’re in the office or not so they have the data needed to support making beautifully intelligent business decisions when it matters most. The rest is just pretty pictures.