Put your contact info on the back (or bottom) of all artwork

It’s important for an artist to include name, title, and contact info (phone number, email, website URL, etc.) on the back of works of art they sell. I’m in the process of cataloging the works in our art collection, and I’ve run into a few pieces with no indication as to how to get in touch with the artist. I think this is very important, especially when the artist signs their work using initials instead of their full names, thereby making a search on the Internet difficult if not impossible. The experience of cataloging our collection has made me more vigilant about adding contact info to my own works.Burnell Yow!

Good point, Burnell. You know, when you look at the backs of works in a museum collection, they often have this information on a piece of paper attached by the gallery.

To your list in the first sentence above, I would add that date, medium (be very specific), and support also be included. The date helps curators place it within the artist’s oeuvre and the medium and support would help a conservator fix it if anything goes wrong.

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18 comments to Put your contact info on the back (or bottom) of all artwork

  • That is a lot of information to write right on the artwork! Wouldn’t all this information turn off some collectors? I always basics on the art itself (name, URL, date) and put the other information on a sticker that can be applied to the back of the frame.

  • What about a contract with your proposal? In the examples you stated, would you not include a contract, particularly for a commissioned piece of artwork and for presenting a workshop? If so, are there examples of contracts available for us to peruse? Thanks.

  • Hmm… Interesting. I always put enduring info on the back of my paintings (artist, title, media). But I never put contact info there (phone, email, url). Seems too ephemeral. Does an artist’s current email address really belong on the back of a painting?

  • Hmm.. while having information to track you is relevent, be aware that some galleries will either remove this information or refuse to hang it. I spent several years working in a gallery where we constantly had to remove labels on the backs of things with artists’ contact information. It’s considered bypassing the gallery as contact point. (I’m not saying I agree with the policy, just that I know galleries that work that way.) A full name and good internet presence when someone searches for that name should suffice.

  • I put my full name, date (and copyright symbol), and medium. I also put the name of the sealer (if I use any) in case it ever needs to be removed.

  • I have to agree with Tina. Commercial galleries are very unimpressed by labels by artists on the backs of frames. They always remove them. The ‘deal’ in commercial galleries seems to be – the gallery won’t tell you who your work sold to – you never give your gallery your contact list! Mind you – I have thought about this one a bit and have decided that the way round this is as follows. For work going into commercial galleries always write your name only clearly on the back of a work and maybe include a label on the back of a mat inside the frame. Name and title of work – for posterity of course! For work going into art society exhibitions, you can include a data label UNLESS it’s going into a commercial gallery for the exhibition in which case you’ll be sat ruining the back of your frame and easing off your label in the middle of a submission process. Guess who learned that one the hard way! Juried exhibitions – don’t even think about putting anything that identifies you on the back of the frame other than the standard label!

  • I have a rubber stamp made with all my contact info and a line on which I write the title of the piece after I stamp the paper on the back of the frame, this is especially helpful when you send the work to galleries and juried shows for identification purposes.

  • I’m shocked that a gallery would tamper with an artwork … those identifying marks or labels form a part of history … to remove them is to remove early clues about someone who may be the next Grandma Moses … I remember as a child, looking at the backs of really old prints in a basement cupboard , & reading those typed pieces of paper stuck on the back … it was like talking to the past … the old typewriter fonts , the thick yellowish paper , sometimes a price (usually something ridiculously inexpensive to us today) … Whoever those people are removing labels , they should be banished from the art world, by the art banishing lords … (who are the art banishers anyway ? maybe the Gorilla Girls will know?)

  • Sari you have a choice – either comply with the gallery’s procedures (no artist contact info was clearly stated in the contract) or not show. If an artist, who had signed the contract, dropped off work with other labels on the back they could be removed since they’d agree to have no info like that. I’m not actually talking about conservation type info – usually it was something like an Avery label with their address and stuff. Nothing that would stand the test of time really, and usually from artist who had little experience of showing with galleries. If you’re doing it right, your name should be sufficient anyway. A Google search should give a collector all the info they need and a way to contact you directly, or one of your agents. :) The necessity of paper labels is from the pre-internet world of art.

  • T. …a contract is a contract & you always have to honour that , even if they want bananas on the frame , the contract of course is king … I get collectors calling me a year after buying a painting, asking me about why oil pastel is smudgy & oops the gallery that closed last summer hadn’t mentioned the painting had sold or who to or that they paid (I was told they defaulted) … one of my framers puts a silver label on with the frame information & their contact info, so if the frame needs fixing they can go back to the source… personally , I think it is nice to help the collector to find you , if they have questions or complaints, & especially since I show in different galleries almost every year & a half … many older people are not internet savvy & 1994 was pre-internet here, which ain’t that long ago …From a saving paper perspective, I totally agree… anyway , chacun son gout …

  • Lauren

    I agree that it’s a no no to put your contact details on the back of a painting. Galleries hate it, and will even go as far as not taking your work if you put your own contact details on it. I put my full name on the back, the year it was painted and the title. I know that if buyers know my full name they will easily be able to find me on the internet to buy more work. The beauty of the internet!

  • after this conversation , I realised my real issue was security & I just joined Fine Art Registry & ordered their security id tags for my paintings …(it helps to track provenance)…check it out at … http://www.fineartregistry.com/ & thank you T. & L. for making me think …& ArtBizBlog , again …

  • Dan: No, it’s not too much. It would be like a gallery label. In museums, we kept all of our labels attached to the backs of the paintings when they weren’t being shown. We’re talking 5 or 6 very short lines–or one longer line with commas! Tina and Katherine: Yes, it depends on where the piece is going. Sari: I’m afraid it’s part of the way things work. If you want to keep your info on there, you must stand up to the gallery and build that level of trust with them. Tina: This is sure true: “If you’re doing it right, your name should be sufficient anyway.” If you’re promoting yourself correctly and online enough, people will find you! Lauren and others: Keep in mind that not everyone sells through galleries! Sari: Thanks for the link. It’s hard to find it on their site. Wonder if you have to be a member. Is that the only reason you joined?

  • yes , it is the only reason I joined … late last night I Googled id security labels & an article about Fine Art registry came up …I had no idea you could put this kind of tag on & register provenance online … I went to their site , joined with the free membership & in the joining process they ask you how many tags you want to order … the minimum order is 10 , at 2 dollars & a bit each , plus shipping , & a credit card number later I am joined … I am going to experiment with this before committing further …but I really think it is something I will use , seeing as I have had several problems with galleries here being rather casual about inventory & other rather important ‘ details ‘ …

  • I have to agree with Tina in that artists should at least have their name on the piece (or back) and a good internet presence. If I do a search of your name and nothing comes up with your art in that search there is a problem. The art world is shifting toward the internet more than ever with each passing year. True, there was a crash in the meshing of the art world and the net early on… but things have changed and will continue to change. The fact that so many galleries are improving their websites is a good sign of that.

  • Sari: Keep us posted on the service. Brian: Yep, I agree. If we can find you on Google, we can find you–as long as you have more than one way to get a hold of you. Remember that email isn’t 100% reliable. Heck, it’s not even at 50%. Gotta include a phone # or address.

  • Why should it be upto the gallery??? i mean an artist creates his art, what does it matter what he puts on the back? that should be up to the artist, if an artist wants their contact, then why not, it them who created it, and why should anyone be making a issue about this anyway,, a gallery will face your art frontface, and once they make they sale, who on earth wants penalise whats on the back, that will never be displayed ever! just seems so strange, that there is even the issue of what a artist does with his art on the back! crazy world……

  • For the benefit of clients that purchase your work, you can place information directly on the back of your unframed work written in pencil…then it cannot be tampered with by a gallery.

    As far as a gallery not providing you the artist with client information, check the local laws. I discovered recently that some of my galleries are required by law to provide me with my client list if requested… Definitely worth the look. (My galleries do earn every cent…so I have no plans to use such a list to ‘sell behind their back’ so to speak..)