This article will help you write impactful descriptions for your artworks.
When Artsy collectors are browsing your artwork page and considering what to buy, they look to the artwork description to learn more about what makes this artwork special.
This is your opportunity to excite collectors through concise, engaging storytelling. If you’re wondering where to start, follow the recommendations below:
Aim for 100 words or less
Museum researchers have found that visitors lose interest in wall labels after 150 words. To keep collectors engaged, we’ve found it’s best to even aim for 100 words or less.
To make the most of your word count, consider leaving out any details that collectors can already find on the artwork page, such as the edition size, artwork medium, and artist biography.
Share what’s most interesting about the work
When collectors walk into your gallery, what do you say to spark their interest in the work?
Chances are, you’ve already discovered the most successful hooks for your artworks, whether that’s describing the artist’s technique or sharing a story behind the artwork’s subject matter. This is the information you should to feature in your artwork description.
Provide collectors with a clear takeaway
Online readers are prone to skimming texts, so keep your writing simple and clear. It’s best to center your description around a single fact or story—this way, collectors can quickly scan your description and still walk away with a memorable talking point about your work.
Follow one of these examples:
To guide your writing, look to these five examples of successful artwork descriptions, each with a different focus. We recommend experimenting with these different formats, so that you can find the template that works best for your gallery.
Example 1. Tell the story behind the subject matter
Andy Warhol, Sam, 1954
“In 1952, Andy Warhol’s mother Julia moved from Pittsburgh to New York to lend a hand to the struggling artist, who was working as a freelance children’s book illustrator at the time. Warhol and his mom shared a love of cats, so they filled their tiny apartment with dozens of them. Together, the pair published a book of hand-colored lithographs titled 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy, featuring Julia’s calligraphy. (Julia accidentally left off the ‘d’ in ‘named’ when writing out the title, but Warhol embraced this error.)”
Example 2. Provide insight into the artist’s market
David Hockney, Paper Pool, 1980
“David Hockney became fascinated by swimming pools when he moved to California in the 1960s. He explored the subject in both prints and paintings, and this series remains one of his most critically celebrated and commercially popular. Even more, it’s just been announced that Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972) will be up for auction soon—with an $80 million estimate, this sale will likely make Hockney the most expensive living artist.”
Example 3. Describe the artist’s technique
Pablo Picasso, Nature Morte a la Pasteque (Still Life with a Watermelon and Cherries), 1962
“Working with the printer Hidalgo Arnera, a 77-year-old Pablo Picasso invented a new linocut technique in the South of France. Before this innovation, artists needed to create separate linoleum blocks for each color. Picasso spearheaded a new method for creating multi-color prints from only one block of linoleum, which eliminated the risk of misaligned colors in the final print. All of Picasso’s linocuts (except for one) follow this custom technique, and speak to the artist’s technical mastery of the medium.”
Example 4. Explain the meaning of the artwork title
Takashi Murakami, An Homage to IKB, 2011
“In this signed print, Takashi Murakami dedicates his flowers to International Klein Blue, the ultramarine shade patented by the French artist Yves Klein. Murakami has actually been referencing Klein in his work since 1991, and often titles his monochrome works in homage to him.”
Example 5. Highlight an artist’s quote about the work
Alex Katz, Ada Four Times, 1979
“This print features Alex Katz’s wife Ada, who has sat for the artist’s portraits for over fifty years. ‘My wife, Ada, is my muse,’ Katz has explained ‘When she was young she went to the movies and was very influenced—all her gestures come out of movies. She’s like a dancer. She doesn't make a bad gesture. I am really lucky!’”
Note: When editing an artwork in CMS, you can input your artwork descriptions under “About the artwork.”