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Examples of Artwork Labels

A woman views artworks in a gallery, they need artwork labels

There are a few questions I constantly receive, and one of the most common is how to label artworks in an exhibition. The truth is there is no single standard format, though most labels include the same key elements.

Wayne-Thiebaud---De-Young-1 label

The most standard information included on artwork labels is:

1. The artist’s name

This one is pretty straightforward! In many museums and some galleries, the name may also be followed by birth and death dates.

For a living artist, you would see their year of birth.
Yoko Ono (b. 1933)

For a deceased artist, you would see their year of birth and year of death.
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)


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2. The title of the work

Depending on your preference, the title of the artwork can be plain, in italics, or bolded. Italics are often used to differentiate the title from the rest of the information, as well referencing english grammar rules for titles. The title could also be in bold as a different method of differentiating it from the remainder of the information.

3. The date of the artwork

Generally, the date of an artwork is the year that it was completed. Sometimes, if a work has been continued over a long span of time and the artist would like to acknowledge that, multiple years can be included (for example, 2012-2014). If the date of the artwork is unknown (usually for historical works), “circa” is included: for example, c. 1919.

4. The size of the artwork

The measurement of an artwork usually refers to the outer size of the canvas, paper, or other material that is the base of an artwork. Unless the frame is an integral part of the work itself, its measurements should not be considered the size of the artwork. The standard is to list the height, then the width. The depth, if applicable, would be listed third. For example, 57 x 46 x 3 inches. Sometimes, there is no specific dimensions for a work (for example, video work, or work which changes size depending on different installation circumstances). In the case of no specific dimensions, it is appropriate to list dimensions variable.

4.a The duration of the artwork
For durational artworks such as video or audio, this format is often used to list their duration: 00:00:00 (hours, minutes, seconds). You can also simply list 1 hour, two minutes, or however long your work is. It is not absolutely necessary to list the duration of work, however works of this nature are often catalogued in this manner.

5. The medium of the artwork

This seems straightforward, although sometimes it can be difficult to decide what should be listed and what should be left out. It is really the artist’s choice how detailed they would like to be. For example, you can list your medium as simply as possible (for example, oil on linen). You can include more detail, if you feel it is integral to the work (for example, gel medium, tea, sand, dirt, grass on found canvas).

6. The price or the credit listing

Should you be selling your work and you would like to include a price on your label, place it at the bottom. If the work is not for sale, you can leave this area blank. If the work is loaned, this is where you would credit the lender. For example, Courtesy of Cleopatra. 

7. Additional information for artwork labels

Museums or larger establishments showing artists of historical significance often list further information on their labels. This could be the museum’s own cataloguing number for the work, and/or a credit to the donor of the work if applicable.


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Here are some examples of artwork labels:

For a loaned artwork:

Roy Lichenstein
Whaam! 
1963
Acrylic and oil paint on canvas
68 x 160 inches
Courtesy of the Tate Museum


For an artwork for sale:

Paul Cézanne
The Card Players
1892-1893
Oil on canvas
38 x 51 inches
$259,000.00


For a durational artwork:

Joan Jonas
Double Lunar Dogs
1984
24 minutes
Courtesy of MoMA

Bruce Nauman
Think
1993
Two color video monitors, two laser disc players, two laser discs (color, sound), and metal table
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of MoMA

Whenever you visit galleries, take note of how they label their artwork. What do you think looks best?

 

 


The original post on this subject How to Label Artworks in an Exhibition includes tips and ideas for physically creating your labels.


 

 

 

44 responses to “Examples of Artwork Labels”

    • I think that they used Helvetica or Arial. Those would be good ones.

  1. Please could you tell me where I can purchase the clear adhesive (printable) art lables?

    • Hello,
      I’m not sure where you’re from, but probably almost any office supply store would carry them. One popular brand is “Avery” that we have here in Canada, and I assume they are available in the States too.

    • We can help you with custom dry transfers. View our website at imagetransfers.com for more information.

  2. Johno — I find that 15 to 18 pt “Optima” is easy to read and looks professional.

  3. Kelly Kroese says:

    Hello! If the work is derivative (as in, using the work of someone else in or influenced by it) where should you include that in the label? I have photography students who are projecting other people’s photos over their subjects and shooting them. I’d like them to give credit to the original source, is that appropriate?

    • Hi Kelly, it is probably most appropriate to inquire with the original artists and obtain their consent.

  4. if its a solo show do all the labels get the artists name?

  5. Sandy Cheng says:

    I have this Painting with a Sticker bumper which reads AT THE LAKE AM SEE sur le lac.I have done searches online & could only find that my search comes up either Austrian,Swiss Germany.The artist Signature is hard to read,surname is very long,This is a white sticker label & white chalk numbers at the back.Its of two men in a boat one is standing & one sitting.they are fishing on the lake.Also there is a red bark roof & base shed is wood.I did come across a card of a row boat & it had the same inscription of the words on the label on the same as my painting.But I forgot the site I was in.Can you help me to track down the Company who made this label as I have tried looking but to no avail.Thankyou Sandy.

  6. Cayuqui Estage Noel says:

    Magnificent information. Thank you. In the case of a one-man show, do all labels carry the artist’s name? Thank you again, Cayuqui

  7. Thank you for this Information!! I don´t want to be picky – in the beginning you stated the size of the work to be in 4th place (before technique) but in the example it is in the 5th place (after technique).
    Assume the position in the examples is correct?

  8. May I suggest custom dry transfers for smaller fonts? Vinyl usually cannot be cut in point sizes smaller than 18. Custom rub-down transfers can be done in almost any point size, almost any color and are very easy to apply. Our company, Image Transfers, can fill that need.

  9. Can you please help me with the material used for the placard?
    Is it foam board or acrylic or something else? And the letters are printed or embossed?

    • Miss Phoebe Brown says:

      Yes! Someone please answer this question for me also? What is the best to use? The foam board looks so good but who, where and is it the most costly option? thanks

    • Miss Phoebe, I can recommend custom dry transfers. You can create the titles/descriptions, gang them up and choose any color. Once you receive the transfers you can just rub them on the wall surface – no background – just text. They look beautiful. Check out our website imagetransfers dot com for more info.

    • Deborah, We can help you with that. My company, imagetransfers.com, creates custom dry transfers that work perfectly on walls to customize your labels. Pricing is published right on our website. Would be happy to work with you.

  10. Deborah Glassman-Gretano says:

    Hi what if you have seven little paintings ? Do you write a title for each one or a title and then Number one etc. although they each represent a decade

  11. how to caption the dates for e.g 1999—Present? or 1999—present

  12. How would you label print editions? For example, postcards and posters made in collaboration with the artist and printed and published by and for Parkett? There often isn’t a title for the work, and it’s unclear whether to attribute it to the artist (as a proper artwork) or the publisher (who instigated the work).

    My best guess is that you title the work, in quotes, whatever text is on print material and list the publisher in the media line. I’ve seen a similar thing done for Ian Hamilton Finlay postcards where he collaborated with different typesetters, distributors, and artists for his postcards.

    E.g.
    David Hockney. “Issue 2,” 2010. Digital-print poster, published by Parkett. Courtesy of Parkett.

    Any thoughts?

  13. what do you stick it to the wall with?

    • Jesse, Our custom dry transfers are lacquer ink with lacquer adhesive.You just need to remove the backing sheet and burnish the type/copy to the wall. Once applied copy will look like it is printed right on the wall. Check out our website at imagetransfers.com for more info.

  14. Matthew Jablonski says:

    I am a digital illustrator, who commonly creates renderings of well-known and, sometimes, not so well-known locations. Personally, I like to think of titles of my known, that emotionally reflects to this or that image, to write on the mat board, in addition to my name, prior to having it framed.

    Sometimes I would like to include the actual name of the location, IN ADDITION to the title. However, I am yet to think of a way to do this, that would efficiently and affectively portray the information, WITHOUT looking cluttered or out of the ordinary. My question to you is: is there any particular way of doing this?

    My guess is probably that there isn’t, but I would love to hear any advice you may have on the subject.

    Matthew

    • Custom dry transfers may help you detail all the info you need and not have the exhibit look too cluttered. They are easy to apply and copy will look like it is printed right on the way. View our website at imagetransfers.com for more info.

  15. Laura Cousins says:

    Thank you for posting this. Very useful indeed!

    • What if the artwork is of, say, a landscape, and you want to identify its location but you have also have a title, that you emotionally feel influence’s the work’s meaning to the viewers’?

  16. I finally found your answer to my original question, posted awhile back, and it’s perfect! Thanks!

  17. Hi there,I read your new stuff named “Examples of Artwork Labels | The Practical Art World” like every week.Your story-telling style is witty, keep up the good work! And you can look our website about free proxy.

  18. Anita W. Gunn says:

    Thanks for the info. I recently got remarried and I was wondering how my name should appear since many of my works were done under old last name and some under new last name. Should I hyphenate my two last names? Like Anita Taylor-Gunn?

  19. Mary Reed says:

    What are the general practices when exhibiting photography?

    • Our company, imagetransfers.com supplies custom dry transfers that are used by museums/galleries to detail artwork. We can certainly be a source for you when exhibiting you’re photography. Please view our website if you want more information. Best of luck with your future exhibit.

  20. I do not include the size on labels next to the artwork at the gallery I manage. As one can see the size of the artwork by looking at it. When I create a hand out list I include the size. My reasoning is that another line of information that can be seen clutters the labels and not having it allows me to use a larger font size when printing the labels. In any online or print references to artwork I make to a piece I include the size. Am I wrong in not including it on the labels next to the work?

  21. […] If you own the blockchain token to an NFT then you have the right to print it and frame it. But some NFTs have different contracts, so check with the IP owner if not your creation. If doing this it’s best to print off a QR code to send viewers to your art or collection. You can find a guide to creating gallery-standard labels at The Practical Art World blog. […]

  22. Thank you for sharing this helpful blog! I just knew now that the title of the artwork can be plain, in italics, or bolded because I did not notice that before. I will also take note that the frame should also be measured if it’s integrated into the artwork itself. I’m just wondering if there is no artist name as one of the labels, how do art collectors or museums usually address this one?

  23. artist sonic says:

    Hi, I have a couple of specific questions about writing the date of an artwork:

    1) What date do you put if you made your artwork in 2000 and added little finishing touches in 2020?
    Would it be 2000-2020? or 2000? or 2020?

    2) What date do you put if you took a photograph in 2000 but made edits (like cropping/rotating/contrast/brightness/hue changes/inverting colors) on photoshop in 2020?
    Would it be 2000-2020? or 2000? or 2020?

    • You could use “2000-2020” or “2000 / 2020” in both cases. The first option would be more suitable if you worked on the piece for several of those years. The second if you made the work one year, then revisited it in a later year.

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