What does creating an Inventory or Catalogue Raisonné involve?

The inventory should relate to all works of art, copyright (the artist should be aware that unless there is an agreement to the contrary, he/she will have retained copyright ownership in any works he/she has given away or sold) and the artist may also wish to include art-related materials such as sketchbooks, notebooks, files, sketches, maquettes and other preparatory works.

Obviously, an inventory helps the executors of the estate or trustees or those running a business understand what is included. However, from the perspective of the future of a body of art, the inventory can be instrumental in relation to the value and future sales of works as it can be used to authenticate work.

In essence, the inventory should set out the following for every work the artist has made:

  • A clear means of identifying the work (for example, size / medium / an image where possible)
  • The current physical location where known
  • Ownership – still with the artist / in private ownership/ gallery / in a public collection. The artist should specify the name of the relevant owner.
  • Loan / Consignment – the artist should specify any terms on which works have been loaned and any consignment terms with any galleries.
  • Copyright – has any copyright been assigned / has the artist granted any copyright licences and details in either case.
  • Terms of Sale / Gift – where any works have been sold or given away, the artist should record the terms of the sale, especially the price and the value of any works given away at that time. This is relevant in terms of the resale royalty right, which may generate income for an artist or the estate on subsequent sales of the work.
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This article is from the Artlaw Archive of Henry Lydiate's columns published in Art Monthly since 1976, and may contain out of date material. The article is for information only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Readers should consult a solicitor for legal advice on specific matters. Artists can get free online legal information from Artquest.