6 Ways to Help Define Your Art Collection Identity

Alessandro Levato | June 2, 2023

View of Solo Show, by Howard Schwartzberg.

Have you ever wondered what your collection identity says about you as a collector?

Defining your collection identity can help you structure, edit, and plan out its growth. You can gain insights into where your interests lie in order to have a more direct outlook at what to collect.

In order to better define your collection, let’s categorize the works, view gaps for new acquisitions, and spend time researching, editing, and curating.

Works within your collection are already in conversation with each other, and with these six simple steps, you can effectively clarify your collection identity as a whole.


1. Define your art collection through three variables.

There are three main variables when looking at a collection of artwork.

The first is identifying yourself as a collector or entrepreneur. Even if you don’t realize it, your identity is already bleeding into what you collect. 

You are growing with the art in your life, and the art is providing you with an enhanced knowledge of a visual language. 

Your art collection automatically gains a collective identity and this becomes the second variable in this equation. Collective identity can be lightly defined as a congruent thought or meaning that shares a similar voice. For example, the De Stijl Period is categorized by artists sharing a collective identity through primary color and form. 

Your art collection can also have conflicting selections. Usually, this promotes critical dialogue between the works. Though the works may have conflicting aspects, they will always share harmony with each other as their intermediary is you. The third variable to think about when you are defining your art collection is the contemporary art world. What is the relationship between you and your collection within the contemporary art setting? 

Ask yourself questions such as, “How is my art collection communicating with today's climate?” or “What are ways to be aware of how x art is affecting the art world?”.

Look at important and necessary factors such as diversity within the artists whose work you collect. Start thinking about conducting additional research into seeking out the kind of work you want to be included within the identity of these three variables. 

This is the starting point for gaining a deeper understanding of your collection's collective identity. 


2. Next, categorize the work in your art collection.

The next step in defining your art collection is to create categories of work. There are a range of ways in which you can group your artwork. A great place to start is with technical factors such as medium, artist, time period, and type of artwork. 

Artwork Archive can help you visualize digitally, the entirety of your collection to look at more conceptual factors such as what draws you to the particular visual language that you collect. What is the mood that your collection gives?

Do you prefer works that hold meaning in their technicality, distribution of space, or through historical and political documentation, or advocacy? 

Pro tip: Look to see if you have written words within your collection. Do you have posters, type prints, or educational resources?

What are ways the artist is using art as a visual and constructive language? What similarities and differences of location and date created can you find while looking at the provenance of works within your art collection?

Answering these questions will get you one step closer to gaining a fuller picture of your collection identity. 

Find ways to define and organize your collection by using our Insights Feature on your Artwork Archive account!


Completed, Ad Infinitum #6 Tesseract_Casein, oil pastel on different thicknesses of gatorboard, balsa wood, by Blinn Jacobs.


3. Then, dive deeper into research about each of your artworks. 

You have spent time and resources building your art collection and thoroughly managing it. While searching for and defining your collection identity, you will want to heavily research the works you already have to find paths for growth, ways to edit, and insights into the dialogue of your collected identity. 

If you haven’t already, spend time researching the artists and artworks in your collection. 

If you are wondering where to start, you can check out your local library or museum website to search for any descriptions, history, or further documentation.

Resources such as The Getty Research Institute or Jstor can be extremely helpful to find further information.

If you find any relevant documents, store them as an additional file in your artwork record on your Artwork Archive account. These files can be built upon or referenced with the click of a button. 

History around your art collection has already been created, and you can further build on that history as you invest more time and research into each artwork. 

Don’t forget to cross-reference the research of your artworks to learn more about the pieces in relation to other works in the collection. You may just find entire scenarios of the works exhibited together at different points in history!

Research brings us to our next step in both finding gaps within your collection and editing your acquisitions. 


4. Refine your collection by selling, filling in gaps, and repeating. 

A great part of having a collection is being able to make your own choices.

You can edit your collection through the secondary market or as donations or gifts. With Artwork Archive, you are able to record all of these decisions and our responsive framework will keep up with you.

Editing can be a way for you to gain more control over the dialogue between the artworks. 

Some important things to consider when making a charitable gift or donation: 

  • Think about income, estate, and tax benefits from donating your art.

  • Reduce estate tax and liability to eliminate capital gains. 

  • Know the rules for claiming a charitable tax deduction and avoid problematic mistakes. Ensure that your donation meets IRS criteria.

  • Learn how to utilize an art database to organize and manage your art donations.

We know there are numerous ways to edit your collection. That's why we hosted a webinar with figures in the field to let you know the benefits of Charitable Gifts and Donations. You can find a recording of that webinar here.

Remember always to make sure that your charitable gift or donation is consensual between all parties.

At the end of the day, our collective priority should be the sustainability and longevity of the artworks, and it’s essential to make sure that they will be able to be maintained and exhibited. 


5. Curate your collection by answering some questions about how it is currently displayed.

The next step towards defining your art collection is through curating.

How is your collection displayed? If it is not on display, how do you keep track of your inventory?

Artwork Archive is a collection management system that can help you digitally visualize, track, maintain, and manage your artwork. If you already live surrounded by your collection, it could be helpful to take notes on why you display the works the way you do, to find other potentialities.

Is part or all of your collection being rotated?

Are there artworks on loan, in shows, or still being created by the artist residing in their studio as we speak?

What is the order of your works? How are your works displayed next to one another?

All of these answers will help guide you closer to understanding the meaning and identity of your collection as a whole.


6. Look at how organizations have formulated identity through art collections. 

Looking at how contemporary art organizations formulate their collections can give you direction on how to organize your defining factors.

Their mission, vision, sustainability, public outreach, programming, history, and collection are terms of their identity. We provided some examples of art organizations that have clearly defined their collective identity below.

You can define these factors for your own purposes to gain further insight into your collection identity. 


Why collection identity should matter to you.

Not only does your collection speak to the contemporary world, but this reflects on you as the collector. The public view of your collection gives an identity of you and your values. 

Collectors play pertinent roles to make an impact on past, present, and future art documentation. Essentially, you are sustaining the growth of the art market and the artists themselves. 

Collectors are, in part, curators, so keep in mind the longevity of your collection and how the artworks you have brought together will be remembered, documented, and sustained.

Finally, and most importantly, defining and keeping a clear vision of your collection identity can allow you more time to do what you love: acquiring art. 

You can find more ways to define your collection identity by digitally visualizing your art. Start your free trial today using the link here.

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