The importance of inventorying an artwork collection


The purpose of an artwork inventory

In general, when a will is well made, the transfer of money and investments is generally done without too many problems. However, it is a different story for art collections, valuable furniture, collectibles and jewelry. Unfortunately, most families don’t have a precise inventory of these particular assets or, at the time of death, the inventory is sometimes outdated and incomplete.

An ideal art inventory includes the artist’s name, the size and/or weight of the work, the year of production, the print number, the country of origin and the condition. Ideally, it should include a transaction log, including the date and purchase price, the list of exchanges (if applicable) and restoration invoices.  If some works are exhibited or stored, the inventory must also take this into account.

Families, often shaken at the time, do not know how to approach the subject of works of art. Everyone has their own “theory” and “expectations”, so many disputes can arise during the division of property. A professional’s inventory allows you to distance yourself from the situation and get a global picture of the fair market value. As the art market is constantly evolving, it is essential that the inventory be up to date in order to get the most out of it.

Some people think they can carry out the inventory themselves, by searching for value information on the Internet, by asking the opinion of “acquaintances” in the field or small independent merchants.  This could greatly compromise the actual asset valuation.

Hence the importance of hiring a professional appraiser, preferably accredited by the Canadian Association of personal property appraisers, to avoid any conflict of interest. The work of a professional appraiser is rigorous and the research time can be long. The artist’s history and the evolution of his work over time also play a role in the appraisal.


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