How to Label Art? (Explained)

I continually receive questions regarding how to label artworks in exhibitions. This is one of the most common questions I receive. It is true that there is no one standard format, but most labels contain similar elements. 

On the topic of labeling artwork in an exhibition, I have written a previous post. On the following pages, I have elaborated on some of the specifics, as well as provided examples of artwork labels.

Generally, artwork labels include the following information:

1. The artist’s name

It’s pretty straightforward with this one!

2. The title of the work

Titles of artwork can either be plain, italicized, or bolded according to your preference. In addition to referencing English grammar rules, italics are often used to distinguish the title from the remainder of the information. Another method to distinguish the title from the rest of the text is to make it bold.

3. The date of the artwork

In general, the date of an artwork is the year in which it was created. Multiple years can be included if the artist would like to acknowledge that a work has been continued over a long period of time (for example, 2012-2014). 

“Circa” is used for historical works in which the date of the artwork is uncertain: for example, c. 1919.

4. The size of the artwork

Measuring an artwork typically refers to the outer dimensions of the canvas, paper, or other base material. 

Frame measurements should not be used as a measurement of the work unless they are integral to it. It is customary to list the height first, then the width. 

It is also customary to list the depth third. An example would be 57 x 46 x 3 inches. In some cases, there is no specific size for a work (e.g., video work, or work that changes in size based on its installation situation). 

It is appropriate to list dimension variables if there are no specific dimensions.

(a) The duration of the work

The format 00:00:00 (hours, minutes, seconds) is commonly used for durational artworks such as video and audio. 

The length of your work can also be listed as 1 hour, 2 minutes, or whatever is appropriate. Even though listing the duration of a work isn’t absolutely necessary, many works of this nature are catalogued in this way.

5. The medium of the artwork

The process seems simple, though sometimes deciding what should be listed and what shouldn’t can be difficult. The level of detail is really up to the artist. 

Your medium can, for instance, be stated as simply as possible (oil on linen, for example). Details can be included if you consider them integral to the work (for example, gel medium, tea, sand, dirt, grass on found canvas).

6. The price or the credit listing

Put your price at the bottom of your label if you are selling your work. You can leave this area blank if you are not selling your work. You would credit the lender here if the work was lent. An example would be Courtesy of Cleopatra. 

7. Additional information

Further information is often listed on the labels of museums or larger establishments that exhibit historical artists. 

It might also include the artist’s birth and death dates (if applicable), as well as the museum’s unique cataloging number, and perhaps even a credit for the artist.

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