Retrospective-Database Consultation Results

12 December, 2023

AOPA had two very constructive critiques of our Retrospective database design yesterday with a NYC art advisor and Montreal McCord Museum’s conservator.

We will be implementing the improvements they suggested, which were overlooked in the preliminary design. The database for archiving artworks is the foundation of the Retrospective platform. We want it to be as solid as possible for the launch later next year.

Art Advisor Sarah Greenberg Morse

Sarah Greenberg Morse brought her experience as an art advisor working with collectors and estate executors in NYC and beyond to AOPA’s Retrospective platform. Her comments were great, with several useful suggestions that will improve the information collected for artworks in terms of sales, collections and legacy information. I was nervous but so happy to have her eyes on our data design!

Before becoming an art advisor, Sarah Greenberg Morse founded and directed two contemporary art galleries in SoHo. She is an Associate Candidate of the Appraisers Association of America, USPAP compliant through March 2025.

Here are some of the improvements that we will make following her feedback:

  • It is important for art advisors, exhibitors and buyers to know the framed dimensions of a work, so this data field will be added.
  • For multiples, the number of artist proofs is important to have documented, so this data field will be added.
  • Sarah pointed out that the current Exhibition Type options are not coherent: solo and group are Exhibition types but art fair and festival are exhibition venue types. We will create a new data field called “Exhibition Venue Type” and include: museum, gallery, artist-run centre, festival, art fair.
  • We discussed Legacy information at length. Sarah pointed out that making a bequest often is a process. So we will reorganize this section to reflect that a bequest can be anything from desired, to requested, to confirmed.

Conservator Sara Serban

Sara Serban brought her vast experience as a conservator to AOPA’s Retrospective platform. Her focus was a critical look at our fields for condition reports, location and authenticity information.

Before taking on her current post at the McCord Museum, Sara also worked at the National Gallery of Canada and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. In addition, she has worked for the Centre de Conservation du Québec, working on various works of public art around Montréal. She graduated from the Master of Art Conservation Program at Queen’s University, Kingston with a specialty in Objects Conservation in 2007.

Here are some of the improvements that we will make following her feedback:

  • Sara pointed out that condition reports must take into account the specificity of the medium of the artwork (glass, ceramic, video, painting, works on paper, etc.). Each requires some specific data fields. We concluded that, because of the large number of fields required, it does not make sense to have all these data fields built into the Retrospective data design. Furthermore, these fields will never need to be used in our web pages, or will they need to be searched. So, the preferred solution will be to create a series of Word documents, one for each artwork type, with multiple check box and text fields to make it as efficient as possible for the user to do the report. These can be downloaded, filled out and then uploaded to the artwork.
  • Sara also pointed out that condition reports need to be able to capture changes in the artwork’s condition, for example when it travels to an exhibition. So this will be taken in consideration when the Word templates are created.
  • She brought up the special issues of documenting and archiving early digital artworks using video and computers. We will review all data fields for artworks with this type of work in mind and make any additions if necessary.
  • Sara pointed out current problems arising in the art world around the creation of false provenance (e.g. artists or collectors making false claims about a work being in an exhibition). The database already has fields to collect documents related to exhibitions, but we see the importance of encouraging our artists to use these fields to add exhibition invitations, screen shots of the exhibition page created by the venue, and including image and video documentation of the exhibition showing the works installed.

We have two more consultations planned. But for now, I’m off to make those changes to the database and our page templates!



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