Debate: Should You Include a Date on Your Artwork?

Many of you who have been following me will know that I discourage artists from including dates on their artwork. Recently, I received the following email from the curator of a museum:

 

Dear Jason,
As a Museum Director, I vehemently disagree with not putting the date created on pieces of work in a portfolio. Why do you suggest that? It appears that the artist is hiding something.

Sincerely,
D.R.

 

I responded:

Dear D,

Thank you for the email and the question. I come at the question from a marketing and sales standpoint, and from my perspective on the front lines of helping artists sell their work, I have only seen the dating of work as a negative.

In a nutshell, here is the problem: It is often the case that a particular work of art will enter the art market and not sell immediately. Sometimes the work is shown in the wrong venue, sometimes the market itself is slow (as over the last several years) and sometimes it’s just poor luck. There are a lot of variables that have to align in order to sell a piece of art. Because of the complexity of the market, an artist will frequently have to move a work of art through several galleries before it finds a home. This process can sometimes take months, or even years. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the artwork, it simply takes time to align the art with the right individual who will be willing and able to make the purchase.

If the work of art includes the creation date we risk prejudicing the potential buyer against the work unnecessarily. The potential buyer may find the artwork to be desirable in every way artistically and aesthetically, and I would argue that the age of the artwork shouldn’t make any difference to this buyer. Unfortunately, I have found age can have an impact on some (not all, but some) buyers.

“I like this piece,” they will say, “but it’s dated 2007. It’s been on the market for over five years and no one has bought it? What’s wrong with it?” This seed of doubt can be enough to dissuade some buyers. I am not speaking hypothetically – I have seen this happen on numerous occasions over my 19 years in the art business and my experience has lead me to discourage artists from including the date on their work or in their portfolios for this reason. I simply don’t see a compelling reason on the other side of the argument that outweighs this potential risk for an artist who is trying to sell their work in the current art market.

I would argue that it’s not that we’re trying to hide something from potential buyers, but rather that we simply don’t emphasize the age of the work by including the date. If there is no date on the work, in the vast majority of cases, the issue never arises.

I am an impassioned advocate of artists being organized and carefully cataloging all of their work. I encourage artists to make sure that each work of art includes an inventory number which could then be cross-referenced to the artist’s inventory if and when the question of creation date arises in the future.

I understand that from a curatorial standpoint it would be helpful to have easy access to creation date, but the vast majority of artists working today are more concerned with making a living and selling their work. From that perspective, I would argue that, on balance, it is better to avoid overtly dating the work.

I would welcome your perspective and any counter arguments. My position certainly isn’t intractable, I simply want to help artists make informed decisions as they approach the market.

 

What do you think? Do you include a date on your work? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Though I haven’t received a response yet from the curator, I will include any response I do receive here.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

125 Comments

    1. I agree with you too. As a artist I have another reason. After a length
      of time if a painting has not sold,, I consider going back and tweeting it.
      Even the Monalisa once had a hat on. I know overtime my skills have improved

  1. I agree with you Jason. I have participated in several exhibits where the information was to only submit work produced in the past 5 years. If my work is not dated, it makes it easier to submit the pieces I want to include. Is this dishonest?

  2. I put dates on commissioned pieces, and occasionally on the backs of other works, but never on the front or in any description of the art. Lately I’m even leaving the date off the back, and for exactly this reason. I’ve heard from too many people that if a piece is obviously “old,” it’s harder to sell.

    I like your idea of inventory numbers, and I’m about to subscribe to Artwork Archive so I can easily create that kind of system.

    1. I keep an inventory of year & date of each piece; however the date never goes on my piece. Should it be needed I have the records. I do sign my work on the front & sometimes on the back I put where it was painted.

      P.s. For all the reasons you mentioned Jason. Thanks!

    2. I agree no date on the front or back. It may be useful for a museum director or if you are famous a buyer may be interested in what year the work was done but never on the front of the painting.

  3. I also agree. It is good to know when you made something by keeping personal records, but I have seen the exact negative effect with buyers that you describe. I now hide the date in an inventory #. I have also lost a sale because of naming a painting after the location it was painted at. I had someone who wanted to buy a painting that they thought was “Vail, Colorado” ,when they saw that it was Regensburg, Germany they did not purchase it.

    1. Same here, Susan. So many people will only buy a landscape or cityscape if they think it’s their pre-conceived idea of where it is. It’s very discouraging when a potential sale falls through because the actual place does not match where they think it is, despite the fact that they loved the painting and seemed like they were going to buy it. If they love it, what difference does it make? But it does make a big difference to some. I paint from reference photos mainly, so I’ll respond to people’s questions of “where” with “I used several reference photos to paint this” and let them draw their own conclusions usually. People who are insistent on “exactly where/what mountain” (or whatever) usually get so picky about details that what they really should do is buy a photograph.

  4. I’ve always advised our artists to not date the front of a painting. All of you points are valid from a dealers point of view. Couldn’t agree more.

    1. “Not stale bread”…wonderfull. In my German brain I already thought: some potential buyers are thinking in the terms of bakeries :sells like hot cake s-. As well as I admit that sometimes cakes are a kind of a bakers artwork , butttttt…..

  5. We have put an inventory number on the back of the art which has the creation date coded into it. So it’s easy to answer curatorial questions and yet have no date associated with the signature.

    1. can you give me an example. I have a tendency to get too specific which makes things overly complicated! Thanks

  6. I too agree. When I began my career I did date my pieces but for the very reasons that you have outlined, it did prove to be a negative. Now, I simple sign the front, sign the back on the frame and put additional notes as I feel the painting needs. Sometimes the name of the model, the location, etc.
    Naturally I keep track of the dates in my own record keeping, but I don’t see its value to a collector. If a potential buyer asks, I will certainly provide the date, but it has never happened.

  7. I agree with not dating the art too. I have had potential buyers question the date of older pieces and appear to be disappointed. I have sold work I have done 10 years earlier but only I know that. If I sell a piece myself I will date it on the back on the date of purchase.

  8. Thank you for answering a question I have had for some time now. It makes sense to me now not to date my work as I have many works that have not sold yet. It should not matter when the work was created. Like you said, I just think my work just has not been in front of the right people yet.
    From this point on I will not be dating my work. Thanks so much Jason.

  9. Agreed…. date on art work is irrelevant, but most public galleries and some commercial galleries request it in a proposal and do not accept work older than 5 years.

  10. I agree. its best not to date the work but to keep a record of when it was made. I Don’t think the quality of a work is necessarily related to its age.
    Ber Lazarus
    berlazarus.ca

  11. You are completely correct on this. As a long time studio and gallery director I have found that dates are very distracting to the buyer and have lost many sales due to the date being somewhat prominently displayed. If it were dated somewhere in the back it probably wouldn’t be as noticeable. For some reason, buyers think everything they purchase has to be HOT off the easel, like somehow that makes it a better painting! It’s a weird thing but it definitely exists!

  12. I am with you on this Jason. Most of the buyers don’t even care about the year of creation and so why would that be necessary to flash it and have them start wondering. Some artwork looks dated, just because it was not created in a contemporary, innovative style, despite the fact that it was created very recently. The artist just happens to like the 60-ties style of painting. In my view the date is irrelevant.

  13. From a marketing sense, it makes sense not to put a date on the work. But it only works up to the point where a customer starts asking questions. What happens if a potential customer asks when an artwork was made? Surely anyone interested in spending a few hundred dollars is going to be full of questions about the artist, where they live, etc. I would imagine the age of the piece would be asked, as well.

      1. If you are sharing images of your art online, like on social media, or your own website, this cannot be said. Even if you don’t share the date of creation on your own website, the history of it and any changes are publicly accessible. So the date of sharing an image of a piece of art could be determined. I would feel if the question is asked, it should be answered honestly. Not offering the information is one thing. But when you give an answer like this, I’m in agreement with the curator that it seems like you are hiding something, because you actually are hiding something.

  14. I’m in agreement with you and the other replies. I had the experience of a gallery director becoming obsessed that I wasn’t sending him enough “new” work, meaning work dated that year, even though what I sent him was beautiful and I felt would be a good fit for his clientele. Artwork isn’t perishable – it doesn’t expire, after all! After being burned by that, I no longer date my work on the front *unless* it is already sold (eg, a commission, or sold via my newsletter, etc.). I do put an information label on the back of each piece, with notes about date, size, medium, and inspiration for the work.

    1. when I here that a gallery wants only my new work, I hesitate. Happy to provide New Work if they are giving me a “solo or featured show. One gallery insisted I make “new work” for a group show then didn’t hang all of the pieces! I have another dealer who will repeatedly show certain older pieces and eventually sell them.

  15. Interesting! I have always dated work on the back but may rethink. I did so as it seemed to be a requirement when showing, perhaps that was an assumption I made.
    Great discussion and topic! Thanks as always!

  16. Count me in with your view, Jason. I have experienced exactly what you said. When you look at famous works in museums, do you see many dates on most of them? NO! Rarely do I ever see dates on even works that sell for millions of dollars, so why should contemporary artists feel that we have to date our works and have that be a potential reason someone won’t buy it? I’d ask the musuem director who asked you that question what percentage of works in their museum are dated. I bet there aren’t many…

  17. I like your idea of undated art however when an artist tries to enter a piece in a juried show they have stipulations about the age of the art. Usually cannot be more than 2 or 3 years since it’s creation. It can get awkward and tempting to fudge. For me keeping accurate records is also a problem so I usually also have to put the title somewhere on the piece as well so I will not forget, preferably obscured or on the back.
    I think art is timeless so a prospective buyer with enough sensitivity hopefully would respond to the art and love it regardless of anything else.

  18. As you suggested, Jason, I have not been obviously dating my artwork; I code it as you also suggested so I know when it was created. However, I recently had a couple interested in a piece of mine, and when they asked when it had been done, I said it was three years previous. Their interest waned, they said they would consider it, and I didn’t hear from them again. What do we need to add to the commentary when date of creation comes up when a piece isn’t newer? Thanks again for all you do for us artists.

  19. I usually put the date on the back. Small, under my name. I don’t like having my signature on the front, but like it to be signed. I think having the date on there is good for posterity but it definitely does not have to be displayed.

  20. One of the reasons your information is so helpful is that it comes from a specific perspective, one that many artists have never been exposed to. Obviously, that doesn’t make other views incorrect, just “other”. To quote a certain colorful movie, “Why, that’s your horse of a different color!” Goodness knows, I would hope that future generations will care whether I completed my work in 2009 or 2019, I doubt that will be the case. As a personal example, the specific work I feel is my “best” was done in 2009. It has not found a home yet and, because it is a few years old, cannot be shown as recent work. It was made early in my current “phase” and is not, technically, as advanced as it could be. If 100 years from now a curator or collector cares (or if its permanent home is a landfill), the date created will explain its technical shortcomings. As for me, I need to pay my mortgage now. Anyone interested in patronage?

    1. Great point Suzanne – and for artists who aren’t as interested in selling in the art market, but are looking for academic or museum representation, a date may be completely appropriate.

      1. With age artwork obtain more value. If you had a simple sketch by unknown American artist dated, for example, 1823 that fact itself could bring a lot of value to a piece. There is no date… there is no historical value. From art diller perspective success is when everything sells right now! But art is not only commerce. A piece of art is a piece of someone’ s life, a moment, sharing it with other.

  21. For painting or drawing…whatever. Sure it is nice to have a date, but the sig is more important.

    For photos I always date them when the photo was taken and when I printed it…on the back. I hate photos signed on the front in gold or silver ink – pretentious and smacks of ‘art fair’ material.

    I also put what I think is pertinent data on the back of the prints. Sometime it may be considered a little too much info by some, but I’ve been thankful when I stumbled upon a little too much info photogs have left me in the past.

  22. I agree completely. Lot of times when submitting portfolios they ask for work, no older than 5 years or less. But lot of my older pieces fit in perfectly with my newer pieces. Selling an artwork depends a lot on luck, a right buyer has to be there at the right time. If that doesn’t happen, that doesn’t mean the work is not sellable.

  23. It has been a question of mine. I used to date mine but have stopped. My style and methods have changed as well as my techniques over the years . When I have visited museums, for some reason when looking at the old masters work I have always looked at the date. I don’t think that the same rules apply to artist of today.

  24. I used to date all my works, but now I put the date on the back of the work, mostly to remind myself. I think if someone really wants to buy the work, they shouldn’t be concerned if it is brand new or if it is from a previous period. I collect art and I do like to know when something was done, for some strange reason, but it doesn’t matter whether it was long ago or recently.

  25. How about on the artist’s web site? Do you list work chronologically, but without dates or group them into series? Any suggestions? Great topic! Thanks!

    1. My work is grouped roughly chronologically, by where I was living at the time, because that is part of the story. Be honest, I just don’t get ‘old is poor’. Some of my best work is ten years old, while some is ten years down the road!

  26. Until I read your book, I have always dated my Intaglio prints but once I read your advice it made totally sense and I stopped doing so. Today, I was working on cataloging artworks for a fundraising event and I noticed that more than half of the entries were not dated, even though it is a printmaking show. Many times there is a big gap between the artwork creation/production and when it is shown to the public. Galleries seem to be interested in the latest, current year made artworks making last year’s inventory look irrelevant or inadequate. However, the artist’s inventory list should indicate the year the artwork was actually made.

  27. My wife has always dated her artwork and yes it dates it and yes in her mind as well she questions her value of older works. We also license and copyright all her work. I really don’t think I can recall a collector ever question the date unless it was brought up by my wife first. Not convinced that dating on the back has hurt her career thus far but I am at least assessing the comments and will give thought to this going forward.

  28. I have a standard label I put on the back of each artwork. It has the Title, Artist, Medium, Price. In the upper right corner is an inventory number. I keep a catalog of works created listed by inventory number which contains more information about the work and also the date created.

    1. Hi Margaret,
      I would like to know more about how you are using your inventory number to provide you with more data about your art, including date and other information. I tried to figure out a pattern for doing so, but have not yet accomplished such a feat. Thankx.

  29. I just recently stopped dating my work because I’m finding the same thing that you’ve found Jason that people think that something is wrong with the work. I’ve had to sell quite a few pieces at a lower price because it had a date on it. Thanks for all of your great advice.

  30. I absolutely agree with not providing dates for work up front until it is sold…the work should have a working date by the artist for inventory purposes and some other private needs. All my work will be dated for curators soon enough…when I die.

  31. I completely agree with you Jason. I used to date my work and also included the date in my copyright on my website. I have since stopped dating my work and am removing any ‘old’ dates from my website. Like others, the year of creation is coded into an inventory number. Juried shows can eat up 6 months from submission date through exhibition to having the work returned, and much of this time the work isn’t even being viewed publicly. And many juried shows only want to see work less than 2 years old. This can really limit the time a piece can be exhibited.

  32. Jason,
    Most of my work has been directly market by myself through juried summer art shows, non-gallery venues, and publicly-run gallery space in that order. Of the approximately 540 pieces I have created, over 400 of them have sold through direct selling to collectors and art patrons. In the time I have been painting, I have rarely, if ever, had comments about the dates on a painting. I sell nothing but original work.
    It’s just not that important for my clients that they get a ‘fresh’ painting. However, I will note that higher-priced pieces tend to take longer to sell. My lower-priced pieces are still in the range of an impulse purchase and can often be a one-person-buying decision.
    An example: I painted a piece which depicted a vaulted station space in the Washington, D.C. Metro. I painted it in 2005, I believe. I took it to every art show or exhibition that I participated in. It always received lots of compliments, but no buyers or offers from ‘bargain hunters’. I always placed it in a position of prominence in my booth display. It drew people to my booth with it’s raised textures, strong lines and bright color palette over a dark background. But no buyers…
    Then in 2014, a gentleman came to a summer show in Annapolis, Maryland, and visited my booth. He immediately placed a hold on the piece and went to bring his spouse to see it. She was not as enthused as her husband. However, he purchased it anyway. He said to me that he passed through that metro station every work day and that the plays of light dark and color, combined with the textures really captured the location and fired his imagination with my reaction to the space.
    Part of the sale hinged on him being the art buyer for their home. The spouse was merely involved on the approval of the expenditure. While I wrapped the purchase, he mentioned that she was the designated wine buyer for their home. So their interpersonal dynamic revolved around certain aspects of their lives together being led by one or the other partner.
    He said that he was glad that I still had the piece when he walked up and that the date on it was irrelevant. He also decided on an additional smaller piece while he was still there – a bonus sale for me.
    So, I disagree on the dating phenomena – at least in my work. Now people may have had the concerns on the dates of the works in their heads, but never vocalized it where I could pick up on it. Price is much more of a driver in my direct sales. And price is why my more intricately detailed urban landscapes stick around and wait for the right buyer.
    I have always said that if a piece captures the imagination of a potential buyer and is within their budget, they will likely go home with it.
    I would say the biggest issue I encounter is that art for the home is a two-person buying experience.
    1) You can have one person very excited about a piece, but the piece doesn’t speak to the second party… So no sale.
    2) However, I have often found that men will cede decoration decisions to their spouses… i.e., they are along for the ride and will only disapprove of a piece which strongly disinterests them. So, if the wife likes it for the home and the male is neutral on the work, the piece still has a good potential to be purchased as long as the price fits the budget.
    3) BUT, if the husband loves it and the wife is neutral, unless it goes in the ‘man cave’, or hangs in his office, it will not sell.

  33. I have always dated my work on the back, and on my website where I have it listed I do put the year it was created. The date has never been an issue for me personally, though I am reading the comments on here with interest. That being said, I really only tend to show out works no more than three years old, and mostly no more than two years old, so maybe that is why it’s not an issue? I’ve never had anybody ask me when something was made other than certain art shows that don’t want work that is more than two or three years old.

  34. Artworks are not bakery goods. They do not need a date to insure quality. I will always provide that information if asked, but the date goes on the back of my paintings.

  35. While I’m sensitive to the potential impact of selling ‘dated’ art, I don’t believe that it will impact the purchase decision of a serious art collector. We understand that art isn’t necessarily perishable and most of us have a fairly good understanding of the ‘business’ of art

    Perhaps my approach is more in line with museum curation than the typical buyer. But when making a purchase decision, I research the artist and to the extent possible, get an understanding of their body of work and how their work has evolved during their career. If an artist has several pieces in my collection, I use the date to gain an appreciation of how their style has evolved over time – their ‘branding’ or ‘brand evolution’ if you will.
    Having information as to the creation date is the only way to gain this kind of understanding.

    Additionally, I use the creation date of artwork for insurance purposes and for my collection database.

    Maintaining the date and other essential (artist derived information) on an artist database or ledger is great – but as a collector I won’t have that information until possibly after the sale (if ever).

    Your results may vary – as I write this I realize that I may be somewhat atypical when compared to the typical buyer of art as a significant portion of my home is devoted to art which I rotate periodically much as a museum might, right down to the labeling…

  36. Jason, I think you make a very good point. Buyers are largely ignorant and “seeds of doubt” can be brought about by even the smallest of reasons, because we are usually talking about considerable amounts of money and why chance it? The date does nothing to either enhance or detract from the quality of the work, so why bother about it. If the museum curator wants to hang a show with dates, that can be easily recorded by the artist. I agree wholeheartedly, no dates! I wish I had read this yesterday, as I had just sent off a list with dates to a perspective buyer. Damn!

  37. You may accuse me of having delusions of grandeur and I may even agree with you to some extent yet, I feel that for an artist who is forging new ground and making an impact on the history of art it is important to have the historical provenance clearly visible on the work. No one I know wants to go to a museum and not see a date on the work. Now if your aim is purely commercial, decorative and you have no desire to have an impact the history of art then it is understandable that you not date it.

    1. Holy crap!! I have never seen anything like your website and artwork, Kaz. I am (almost) speechless. I just showed my husband who is a Finance type and he was fascinated also. For your creations, you seem to be combining your right brain and left brain. Brilliant!

      Cheers,

      Verna

  38. I put the date in the ID# and end it with the number. If it is the 21st painting I painted that year, 21 ends the ID#. It is always on the back along with title, my name, size of image and size of frame and then the ID#. This is valuable for me when shows ask for title, image size or frame size. I also made up a certificate of authenticity and put the same information on it along with a description of paper used. This is stuck on the back of the painting.
    I don’t think the date on the front adds to the painting. The old masters seldom put the date on the front and their value goes up as the years go by. Maybe the answer to someones inquiry is that the paintings gain value as the years go by. Age should be an asset. The date is more for our benefit than the customers, and more for history after we are dead and someone brings our painting to the Road Show to find out how valuable it is.

  39. Thanks Jason, After reading this from now on I am not going to put date on my work. I am a beginner in this business, last year I painted around 25 pieces and put the date under my signature on every piece.

  40. You’re right sure but also D is right. I’ve been in both cases, as an artist that exposed in museums and participates in national art contests I can tell you that dating your work is essential when you aspire for an exhibition or an scholarship, it talks greatly about your honesty, I know many painters that paint over and over the date of the piece to make it look newer(which is lying), and obviously if you have done recent art work. Same criteria you applied in last year contest.
    Talking about sales I’ve had great seasons and great sales but also really horrible seasons or simply there are pieces that just don’t sell, like a little photographs that I’ve printed in 2014 and were never sold… date was a key factor.

  41. In art school, I put my name, title and date on a painting. During critique, I learned that doing that is distracting unless you can somehow incorporate those elements into the work itself. As has been said, it is unnecessary. It distracts not only from the sale of the piece, but from the art as well.

  42. One of the problems that I have when I see a date on an art piece, is I tend to associate a style with the date. It takes me away from the emotional aspect of the work and I focus more attention on style in a judgemental way. I agree with no date on the front.

  43. I always dated my work until recently. Jason makes a compelling argument in favour of not dating your work. From what I have read, no one has yet provided any sensible reason that could entice me back into dating artwork on either the front or the back, or in the portfolio. Currently my website host has a default date system that does not provide a no date option. I am raising the issue with them to get this changed.
    Coincidentally I received a compliment from an artist I have a great deal of respect for on a facebook ‘album’ dating from 2011, I had titled [to my horror now] ‘New Work’. It only had a few horrible ‘sketches’ for possible future work. Small pieces photographed with a phone from one of my sketch books – but it doesn’t show online like sketch book pages, and is easily mistaken as finished work. In short I went to the page to delete it, but the comments from friends and respected artists stopped me and I made a small post about how embarrassed I am at such bad work being online. I also said I am mentally deleting it and have no desire to see this work every again. I hate it, but out of respect for friends an colleagues I will just let it sit there and hope no one takes a look. Of course the opposite has been the case and now I am thinking strongly of deleting my Facebook page totally (its not my favourite place and I would be most happy to disappear from it).

    My point of this story is that dates can also play games with the artist own perceptions of who and what they are and can easily shatter self respect via being reminded of a ‘down’ period in their life. When notification popped up on my screen saying “…. as made a comment” and I read the comment I was so surprised and over whelmed that had look up the page to make sure it was real. Then I saw the date (and the title, which at first I though was indeed relating to new work, which certainly wasn’t – a lesson there!) and I have to say my heart sunk, not because of the comment, or even the work, but it was the date. It brought back memories of period in my life that was very low and is a period I wish to forget.
    Some dates bring wonderful memories, other dates bring reminders of things best forgotten. My thinking is that dates, particularly those in the distant past, do change perceptions and feelings and responses to what you are looking at; good and bad. If I get mixed emotions from dates, then I am sure there are others who do as well. These may indeed effect sales both for and against. There are more meanings to dates than a mere record of when a work was created. As artists we live a knife edge of ego where even a tiny negative can diminish a positive. The same can be said of some art buyers I would say.

  44. HAHA!!! It is really 100% the choice of the artist. The negative aspects of dating my work made me stop, as I would simply sign my name. But that isn’t really working for me, as I like to know when I painted them myself. To solve the problem, I simply sign and write my age on my work…I do it for me and no one else. And I am not afraid to say my age to anyone who asks…no secret there. I have never once heard a complaint from the art world side, nor any of my collectors…on the contrary…they like it. I just turned 53 yesterday so now I have to make decent looking “3’s” ;)))

  45. Gonna agree with Jason, on this one, too. Especially from a seller’s standpoint, I think there’s not enough positives, or compelling reasons, to include a date.
    For the artist’s cataloging purposes, sure, but not for display…

  46. I agree with “no date” on paintings I show for sale. I do, however, have a 3×5 card in a file, on each painting, that tells the ID#, a “short hand” description with title, media, size, , price, where it has been shown, with date & asking price ; “Sold to:” purchaser ; Sold by what gallery” space”; & what price was collected “Price” I received after commission from seller; date I received check from seller, minus % of commission given to seller. AND list of places it was shown & dates.

  47. One assumes a patron wants the artists’ work at their highest level of excellence, which is normally current work. But not always, and that is why the execution date of a painting is incidental. I look back at some of my work and remember a particular piece was done when everything was optimum; subject matter, composition, lighting … it all worked. A piece has value unto itself regardless when it was painted. We all have paintings that didn’t turn out the way we wanted. So would a buyer want an older successful painting or a current failure? Asking when a work was completed is a peculiar question.
    Rare, but a patron may collect a particular artist and want paintings through a long career and in that case a date is helpful.
    And last, painting an iconic scene might give context to a landmark. I’ve painted the Taos Pueblo twice, once in 1986, and in 2006. They were different parts of the pueblo but my reference photos show change. An added stovepipe, different painted doors, an empty apartment … you can almost see which decade this timeless structure was painted by the color of the doors. My point is, it is a dynamic residence and I wish I had dated both. If a scene demands a point of reference … a date … I will do so.
    Dating a scene can act as a historical record, especially if the artist knows it will change dramatically. In sales of dated work it should be part of the narrative about the particular piece, why the artist dated it. We normally have a very good reason.

  48. I used to date my work on the back, but following your advise, Jason, I stopped doing it as I do agree with your arguments. You mentioned somewhere that it could be dated, but not so obviously, it could become a part of the inventory number for example, so now I usually write first letters of the title, dimensions and then last two digits of the year. For example Field Trip 30×45″ painted in 2016 becomes inventory number FT304516.

  49. Jason, if you or any of your respondents, have placed work in museums you will know that the date is important. In this thread I see a chorus of artists who seem to all agree with your advice to omit the date or hide it on a work of art. I am disappointed that you would advise artists to be evasive. I’m also disappointed so many folks here are like sheep following your lead. I am astonished that I am one of a very few (perhaps from responses you chose to print) that does not agree with your advice.
    Let me be a lone voice in support the curator who disagrees with you. Artists have been dating their work for centuries -more often than not. Why do you think this is? It is not just tradition. It is not only important to museum curators, but also to serious collectors who may want to place a work in the context of an artists career. There are copyright, provenance, and authenticity issues that also make it wise to date your work. I’ve been a selling artist for over 40 years and a gallery owner for six. I have always dated my work and have never lost a sale by doing so. If artists and gallery owners are so insecure that they have to hide the date the work was created in order to make a sale, they must have a weak connection with their customer.
    There is no need to be disingenuous with a customer or anyone else about when a piece of art was made. Not dating your work could also be viewed as unprofessional or worse, a sleazy tactic to hide the truth. Smart buyers will see through this, damaging your reputation. Being illusive about dates is dishonest – period. Honesty is the best sales policy and should be the only policy. Leaving the date off a piece of art is a personal choice, however it is an unbecoming one.

    1. Good points, Jeffrey, and your position is well taken. It really comes down to what works for each artist. I myself agree with Jason due in part to his position as a gallery owner but also due to the fact that many competitions will not consider my work if it is one to two years or older. I am going to assume that you do not enter your work in any competitions as having an older date on your work would most likely disqualify it. Of course the remedy to that problem would be to carefully remove or paint over the date on the work of art (assuming it is a painting) and submit it as if it were made only last week! Of course that could be very challenging to do for certain types of artwork. That is where learning the tricks of the trade of restoration comes in for those who need to remove the completion date on their artwork!

  50. I also agree with you Jason. I have never dated my artwork on the art itself, I have seen some pretty tacky dates on paintings by amateurs that really detract from the work. I do catalog my paintings and the date is a part of the catalog number that goes on a sheet on the back where I also write about the inspiration for that particular artwork.

  51. I understand and appreciate all the reasons for not dating a work. But I do. I title, sign, and date each painting on the back, and scratch my signature and date on the front while the paint is still workable. I occasionally have older paintings that have not sold—after a while I will critique each. If I still think one is a good painting, I will hang it in my studio as part of my private collection. Often a client will see it there and buy it. If it needs improvement, I will adjust, and add the new year. Or it will ‘go away’. I buy art, and I am immediately suspicious of someone who has not dated their work, or is not forthcoming about the location.
    I also title works by location, because that is how I paint. If someone is doing a search, they don’t type in”pretty river”, they type in “James River”. I don’ want them to think it is any other place. I lost a sale because someone thought a church steeple in my painting was of a different church, but then it sold to someone who lived down the street from THAT church. This is another reason I date my paintings–I may visit a site often, and dating (besides referring to season or number) helps promote the serial nature of the paintings. I have painted one field over 70 times, and in 3 different series. The date helps to document that.
    When a piece sells, I send a provenance that also gives the date, location and story of the painting.
    However, I do not post dates on my website (which is undergoing a transition right now).

  52. I don’t include a date in the sales info on my website, but I do date my acrylics on the back when signing them. I also have an inventory number for each, which is recorded in a spreadsheet with all the other info about it.

  53. Dates and places are tricky business. I think we’ve been conditioned by museums and art history courses to provided title, artist, date and location.
    But as I’ve now produced artwork continuously for 30 years, and time goes by faster and faster, I agree with Jason and no longer obviously date my work. I use an inventory number that includes the year and put it on the back. Once someone buys a piece I’ll put the date on it if they ask. My work has changed a lot over time so it is good to have a record of the date for history’s sake.
    None of my paintings are really of a specific place. When someone asks if the landscape depicted is such and such a place I just say yes and talk more about that. Or if they ask where it is I ask what it looks like to them and talk about that.

  54. Jason, I agree with you 100%! Your reasoning is sound. I have stopped dating my works of art, and I do not sign my photographs because I don’t wish to spoil the picture plane. Many famous photographers, and other artists, did not sign their work, I suspect for similar reasons. As I start a new painting series I’m seriously considering not signing the paintings…in my younger days I wanted my signature on there for everyone to see…now I’m more concerned about the integrity of the image itself. Stick to your guns, Jason, you are right.

  55. Jason, I used to date my paintings but I do not anymore because of the reasons you have laid out for us. I am implementing an inventory method to track my work. From a buyers point of view, my husband and I have purchase a lot of art in the past. Our rule has always been, we both have to love the work and we have to say “I can not go home without it”. At no time have we ever looked at the date the painting was created because that is irrelevant. The point is we want to enjoy that piece of art for years to come.

  56. I painted a series of mandalas in the 1980’s…..now mandalas are ‘popular’ and there are even coloring books of mandala designs. I don’t date my work. Jason, you are absolutely right that dating work does not help sales….especially when the art is ‘ahead of it’s time’…….or ahead of the public ‘taste’…….If artists were more supported in their work and lives, it would be a much better and more beautiful world. World peace also furthers artists…..war capitalizes on and destroys art…….so I have worked for world peace and environmental protections….without having to put time into that artists could also create more art. Some artists block out the world to do their art….I did that at one time but had to fight for my freedoms and was not able to continue to block out the world. Artists get caught up in all sorts of political situations. We react…..through our art, externally or with both….If anyone is interested in artists or their art, historically their phases may be later documented. In their lifetimes, anything that helps them sell their artwork, including NOT dating their work, is helpful. Just my humble opinion….Maybe that museum owner could date his transitions in the art movements and his encouragement of art movements by date? Or his aquiescence of artists by the dates he or she assigned for their entry into the art world?

  57. I will always ‘sign’ my paintings, but I try to integrate it into the work so that someone may not easily see it and it will not harm the visual work in its wholeness. Many ‘famous’ artists made their signatures really stand out. That is beautiful, but not for me…..If I had a different name perhaps I would feel differently…but my name is so common it is nothing to advertise on a painting…..

  58. It is so interesting that this was mentioned as I have just been thinking the same thing. I have always signed the front alone and on the back, I have put the number or name of the piece and a date. I felt, not really knowing as a new artist, that it may appear old or a reason why it is three years old and not sold. Possibly as Donna has mentioned above it isn’t an issue at all for some as they just love the work but it is something I have always wondered about. I love the idea of a separate record somewhere with the date etc and possibly just sign front and back.
    While I am on signatures can anyone tell me if there is a proper size for the signature on the front. I, for the most part, sign up the right-hand side and I have been told my signature is too large. It goes with my mood I suppose in creating that particular piece. Would love to hear what you think? Should the signature be really small and unnoticeable or a bit bolder? Thanks… Keep painting.

    1. I think it depends on the style of your art. My art is traditional, realistic maritime art, so that is quite detailed, so I make my signature small and unobtrusive, as I don’t want it to detract from the painting. I think if you you are doing abstract or bold modern art, you can safely do a larger signature. It’s just my opinion, but I don’t think the signature should be so large that it becomes a distraction from the painting.

  59. Hiding information from a prospective buyer? I don’t think there is a professional artist out there that would lie to make a sale. Every painting I sell has a certificate of authenticity to go along with it. The artist receives this, along with a receipt after the sale is completed and I have reaffirmed that the client made an excellent choice. On the certificate is the date the painting was completed, along with other information. I have NEVER had a complaint about the date.

  60. I had a gallery owner advise me to paint out the dates for all the reasons already mentioned…now I just date the back of the painting with another signature.

  61. I absolutely agree. People and most especially galleries are biased against art that is not “your most recent work’. They almost always want to see work that has been done in the past year. And then, ironically, art that is done decades if not hundreds of years ago is sold for the most exorbitantly high prices at high end galleries and auction houses. So, if an artist is not already extremely famous whether they be dead or alive, the galleries will most often not even look at work over a year old. They do not judge by the quality of the work. They will not even give the artist an opportunity to have the work be seen by them and therefore by the public. The art-world is upside down in this regards. If you are not famous you cannot even submit work that is not recent but if you are already famous your older work may even draw more money. I believe this is all in the hands of the gallery owners. They have this attitude and communicate said attitude to potential collectors who follow the galleries lead. If the galleries changed their attitude and expressed to the buyers how wonderful it was that a particular painting was done 10 years ago or more (for example) and pointing out how more valuable that makes the piece, then the buyers would follow that belief system. art and art pricing is subjective and the galleries are creating this unnecessary attitude because if a work of art is loved by someone, the date should not matter at all. Robin Sierra

  62. Thanks Jason, for your site, articles and debates. I would like some clarification on this debate though. Some answers here agree that you shouldn’t put the date “on the front”. Others say the painting shouldn’t be dated at all (on the back). Which do you mean? What is the point of putting the date on the back, even secretly, if it will only disappoint the buyer after they return home with their purchase?

    I have only ever put the date on the back, because I thought this was relevant information for the painting (and as for me, I’m always interested in the date of art, film, piece of music and so on). I really don’t want to leave the date off my work/certificate, even though I also use my own recording system. I wonder if we are not helping a trend for buyers to be fickle in this way. Are we forever stuck with pandering to fickle buyers, not art lovers?

  63. We live in a world where we are accustomed to seeing perishable items with an “expiration date”, “Best if used before 05/15/16” or “Do not use after …”. In Real Estate, the price of homes are negotiated downwards after being on the market for awhile without selling. Interior decor’s are said to be “Dated” after just a short while. Automobiles are sold a full year before their “Model Date”. New releases in technology quickly make previous models obsolete. For these reasons many have been “trained” to be suspicious of anything that is not “right now” or current. This is true even with some art collectors. It’s just the way we have been conditioned to see things.

    In the early 1960’s, My high school art teacher told me NEVER to date my artwork on the piece itself but to keep a record of the details of all my work private. As a full time professional artist, it was the best marketing advice I have ever received. That information is gladly given to buyers upon request.

  64. I think the question here is basically do you date the painting on the front or the back? Personally I only put on the front that which enhances its value, such as my signature. Putting the date on the front of the painting would be like putting the inventory number there.

  65. Why not do both? (I’m more of a ‘have it all’ kind of gal.) Don’t put the date on the front of the work, but put it on the back where framing will cover it up if you think it will be a problem for you. I also think that indicating the colors used in a painting can be helpful if you choose to revise the painting in the future or need to do some damage repair. When you become world renown, both will also be useful for your archivists…

  66. Jason, all that you have indicated in the beginning of this “debate” is correct in my opinion. There are so many “impressionable” potential buyers out there who might be persuaded not to purchase, for the wrong reason i.e. age of artwork.
    So, we must negate their thoughts in this respect by not showing a date.
    I do not date my artwork.

  67. Great discussion! I date, sign and add the title to the back of all my work, plus keep fastidious notes in a studio journal/notebook about the work, including when it is signed. After photography is complete, I enter all the info, including dates, into a studio inventory program on my Mac. Creating art is my life’s passion, therefore, at least in my mind, the chronological documentation, including putting it on the back of the canvas, is part of the legacy of my work. So far, the date has not affected selling directly to a collector. For instance, I painted a series of 10 florals in the late nineties. Then recently had a small exhibit including four of the florals that were still available. A couple came in at the very end of the exhibit. They took a business card and left. I received an email the next day asking availability and the price for all four of the florals. He brought the check and picked up the paintings that next weekend. Two weeks ago, I was contacted by a woman in Chicago. She somehow acquired one of my first acrylics. A painting done before my inventory program, but it was signed, dated and titled on the back. I was excited to get the info for documentation. She never questioned the date, just liked the “look”. She and her husband are now commissioning me to do another painting. On the flip side, I know galleries (and online juried exhibitions) like to have new work as it signifies the artist they represent is prolific plus they can show “fresh” work, especially if the artist’s style has morphed through the years. I had a day job as a Studio and Business Manager for an internationally acclaimed sculptor for four years. He has a photographer on staff whose job it is to photograph, process, brand and inventory all work. The front of each image includes the year, medium etc. and we marketed those branded images worldwide (with varied years)…with great success.

  68. Because I do live painting at concerts, including relevant dates helps me build value with customers. For example, a fan of a certain band is more likely to pay the asking price for a piece live painted about and to the title song at the CD release party if I can prove it was created at that event. This also adds value for collectors of concert memorabilia. I have had several such collectors contact me later after realizing I live painted not just at Color Jam III but also previous Color Jam events to ask if I still have anything from those previous events.

    Dating has also proven useful in studio series produced over time to show my growth as an artist during that time.

  69. Today (March 4) I took in a piece to be juried for a show, and was told that if it wasn’t painted within the last year and a half it is too old to be juried into the show. Then I was told that if the date was painted out, the piece could have been in the show.–Recently I had a collector in my studio who indicated he only wanted to see the most recent work. I hear and understand why it may be better to leave off a date from my paintings, but I feel it is a short-sighted view–a form of propaganda–perpetrated by galleries for selling purposes. I always remember that Van Gogh never sold a work of his art while he was alive, even though his brother was trying to do so. Now, Van Gogh’s sell for among the highest prices–and dates and provenance are important.
    I wonder if a study has ever been done to see from a research standpoint if dates inhibit sales, and if so, among which buyers and/or collectors. It is clear to me that some galleries and some collectors are definitely making some decisions based on whether the date is readily visible or not. It is less clear to me that, in the long run, not having a date on my pictures is better. I am foolish enough to think from an art historical and curatorial perspective, a date is a good thing, even though it may discourage some sales, especially from less confident and less competent buyers. Perhaps I will have to bow to the philistines by putting a coded date on the back of the paintings to quench my own pecuniary thirst and the concerns of the exhibitors and fickle collectors.

  70. I too have found that artwork and sculptures that I have created and added a date onto, were viewed a few years later, in a negative light. I even had someone comment that the piece was beautiful, but couldn’t see why it hadn’t sold yet. I asked if the fact that it was sculpted a few years ago “altered” the piece in their mind. They said “yes.” 🙁

    After that experience, I no longer put a date on any my pieces. Instead I keep the creation date as part of my inventory information I maintain with your ARTsala software. If I am entering something into a show that specified “last than two years” I review my inventory and only submit artworks that qualifies. I do not leave the dates off to try to fool anyone or group.

    BTW: I love your software and wish you would add a place for us to tract the cost of the newest gallery trend of co-opting art shows. These co-op shows have a fee for the two to three month showings. It would be great to collect all this info. in one place!

    Thank you!

  71. Jason, I totally agree with your position to leave the date off the artwork. This issue has come up directly or indirectly with the sale of my work. Since initially reading your position I have been slowly removing all dates from my paintings. I still know when they were made and it helps me determine their demise should I decide to paint over or give away the painting because of its longevity in my home. Thank you for bring up this important issue.

  72. I have been dating my art only because I thought it was a ‘given’ thing to do- like signing it. Most of the artists that I know all date their work. Some artists have been selling reproduction giclee’s of dated items for years and the topic of the date rarely comes up. I can understand Jason’s opinion and it now gives me pause. Perhaps I will rethink the dating of a piece. Thank you all for sharing.

  73. I believe in putting the date on the work and think it is important for provenance in the future, and to show the consistency and history of the artist’s work through time. I think it is the task of the gallery to educate the buyer that the date will be a valuable asset to the piece many years into the future. That perhaps the particular piece has been held in the collection of the artist who considered it to be a favorite and only recently decided to let it go out to the world to that special person who will cherish it. Just a thought.

    1. Circe, I agree. I’ve always dated my work and it has never been an issue. Sometimes I keep pieces in my own collection for years, then I paint something I like even better so I put the first painting up for sale. Telling a potential purchaser that the work was in my personal collection, or telling them it it is “an earlier work that I think you might like ” supports their initial interest in it. Assuring them that they have discerned something in a piece that perhaps no one has really appreciated before can make the whole experience of buying your work even more special. It’s really all about how you approach the client.

  74. As an artist who for the past 30 years sells to the commishioned art market. A lot of my work was resold as fine art and hangs in museumes and private collections world wide. My last agent of three decades and I battled about the copy right dating of work for the same reson you discurage dating.. So our compermize was that I used Roman numerals
    in the copy right and everyone was happy. This still did not stop the asian market from steeling my work, So I developed a secound signutre hidden in the art. this did not stop the thifes. But people find pleasure trying to find the othere signitures. JWMcD

  75. Putting a date on a contemporary piece of art just doesn’t jive with the look, it just LOOKS old fashioned. This is where it would make a difference the most in a gallery. Good record keeping is the key for the artist, by inventory, photo records or however. Keeping a record of collectors is important too if the gallery will give the artist the info, or keep this information and make it accessible. Copies of Certificates of Authencity can help the artists also keep a general record of when work was created, by the year anyway if it is fresh off the easel. Dates on the back might not hurt a sale, and seem to be OK in our gallery.

  76. I started dropping dates from exhibition labels about 8 years ago from the Theater Gallery I managed for Jason’s very reasons, and haven’t include dates in any of my own exhibitions since very early on. If somebody asks, I’ll give them the date, though. I think that only happened once.

  77. Like many I used to date my paintings but now I don’t after hearing Jason’s rationale. And it makes total sense. I make a portion of the year part of the inventory number mostly for my own memory and to leave a record for museums, etc who feels they need it. I’m not waving a flag about it. I don’t expect a customer to see the inventory number.

  78. I have put dates on the back of my paintings simply to see my progress over the years and also to give people an idea of what time in my life I produced it. But I have never really sold any art, so I don’t think my opinion is worth very much.

  79. Up until I read this I put the dates on all my artwork. That ends now. I already have a personal record of my work on computer and a book of sales which includes images and all sale information.

    Your expertise is appreciated.

  80. I have been placing a date on the back for copyright reasons. Is that a bad idea? How do I protect my work? The dates are in pencil so I can erase if I need to. I did have a piece sell that about a year or two ago that was dated for 2010 or 2011that sold. The date was on the back but not the front.

  81. In the past, I always dated my art, both on the front AND back. Then, I read your book! I had art that I either did not sell or had kept in storage for several years and now wanted to put back on the market, but the older dates did not bode well for a potential buyers interest. Instead, I painted over the dates and, on the back only, added an inventory control number – as you suggested in your book. The inventory number relates back to a year of creation so if I really needed to provide a date, I can easily do so.
    I am much happier using this system than with putting obvious dates on my art.
    Thanks for the information.

  82. I am with all of these artists who write inventory numbers on the back of each piece, in conjunction with keeping good files. In this digital age, there is simply no need to write an exact date anywhere on the piece of artwork itself. With a good system in place, in future decades/centuries it will be easy enough for anyone to tell the date of every piece I’ve created.

    For anyone interested, here is my system for recording my always-in-flux art inventory: http://www.artbycedar.com/blog/2012/09/10/my-art-inventory/

  83. Jason i believe you are spot on and I can not find a reason to include a date on my artistry. Appreciate you and your comments.

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