It’s a matter of personal preference and choice, of course. I do sign my work but prefer not to put a date on it. I feel as though it is somehow limiting to the work and to myself as an artist. Perhaps it is completely irrational to think this way but we are talking about art here.
Yes, a date on artwork indicates the year in which it was completed. Perhaps ‘completed’ is the key word here. I suppose that for some artists it is a declaration to themselves and others that the work they are putting a date on (and presumably signing) is now finished. The creator may have even worked on this particular piece over multiple years and at this pivotal moment, the process has definitively and finally concluded.
Past its best-before date
It’s how other people may perceive the date on a piece of art that worries me. It can feel like a best before date on a tub of sour cream. It’s no longer desirable of fit for human consumption. It’s been abandoned at the back of the refrigerator (possibly next to a jar of heritage cocktail onions) for far too long. Metaphorically speaking, it has gone off.
I always imagine someone looking at a piece of work for sale in a gallery and seeing a date that is a few or even several years in the past. Maybe it would make them see it as some kind of unwanted leftover and therefor think less of it. ‘After all this time is still hasn’t sold,’ they muse, ‘why should I want it?’ They may otherwise really love it and be interested in purchasing it but the date can sow seeds of doubt. Should it really matter that the paint is still fresh?
Experience has taught me that for most people, purchasing art is an impulse buy. Their rational selves are trying really hard to convince their irrational selves not do this. Why give them another reason to talk themselves out of it?
I have few doubts that a good argument to the contrary could be made – just not by me. Some may see it as an important part of the archiving process or as a means to track the progression of their work. It’s all good.
You should catalogue your art
Everyone says you should and that it is the professional thing to do. I can’t argue with that and I can argue with most things. After all, it’s helpful to the people you leave behind after you kick the bucket and your work is actually worth something. Seriously though, keeping track of my work has never been a strong suit but I now see it as a priority.
Cataloguing your work is a great way to keep track of many more pertinent details than just date-of-completion. In fact, this blog post has given me the push that I needed to get finally get around to doing my own. Recording dimensions, materials used (media), if it’s been sold, and to whom is a good start. A brief description that includes any relevant information is also good. A picture is key.
Some out there suggest using a program like excel and assigning what a number to everything. There are few things that I like less than a spreadsheet so this idea holds no appeal for me. Also, wouldn’t you have to have a separate visual record that is numbered to match the one in the spreadsheet?
I am using Adobe InDesign, a page layout program that I am very familiar with. This way I can have a photograph for each with a corresponding block of text with as much information as I need. I can easily add as many pages as I need and the document can be updated and expanded on an ongoing basis.
This way, the fact that I prefer not to date a specific work is compensated for by having a permanent record that includes the necessary details for each work but also my entire output. Of course, whether you decide to date your work or not is up to.
And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. – L/C