To Title or Not to Title, That Is the Question

I obtained the subsequent e-mail from an artist inquiring about titling her do the job. This is a single of the far more frequent subject areas I talk about with artists. I have an understanding of that titling your artwork can turn into tiresome, and many artists sense that a title can get in the way of the artwork.

Although I am an advocate of titling artwork, and I experience titling deserves expense of time and thought, what do you imagine: do titles truly issue? Can the incorrect title reduce you from providing your artwork? Can the correct title assure a sale? When the challenge might seem to be like a small 1, it is an issue you will be working with continually over the training course of your vocation.

Read my discussion thread with the artist under, and then share your thoughts about titles in the remarks below. How do you truly feel about titles? How do you appear up with your titles?

Primary E mail from Artist

Expensive Jason,

I have a issue: does a title really make a difference?

Today I was picking up two of my artworks at the location for a the latest two thirty day period global exhibition, “Arts in Harmony” in Minnesota. A person of my pieces, Contaminated Water #2: Pond Scum won quite a few awards and was very perfectly gained. The other piece juried into the exhibit was Contaminated Water and is the commencing piece in this series.

The Curator of the exhibition made a issue of coming more than and talking to me as I was likely by means of the checkout approach. His responses to me ended up that he experienced hardly ever found a piece of function intrigue so many collectors around the study course of the exhibit. There have been quite a few inquiries into purchasing but no closing sale coming via by the finish of the show on March 29, 2012.

He was questioning the titling of my get the job done and the sequence, of which there are four currently finished and being exhibited with 4 extra in the completion course of action. He was suggesting that my Contaminated Drinking water series is far more reminiscent of Monet’s drinking water pieces and that the titles should really be modified to Monet’s H2o or Monet’s Pond with the subtitle (Pond Scum, and many others) but to drop the Contaminated Drinking water aspect simply because it was maybe impacting the salability of the do the job.

In your experience as a gallery operator, have you observed the true title of a piece be the “killing factor” in a opportunity sale? If I was to improve the titles of these pieces (on my net website, galleries, upcoming exhibitions, and so forth) which have been exhibited in excess of the very last two decades, would that be harmful to the impacted artworks or to my name as an artist?

Many of the exhibitions my do the job is in also deliver catalogs for the exhibitions so it is by now recorded with the present titles.

I’m not certain about introducing in the reference to Monet in perform titles for a whole collection would be fantastic either – would that provide into perform ideas of copying of Monet’s wonderful perform instead of it staying my have? I have always titled my get the job done since “Untitled” tends to make it tough for men and women to describe what the work is if they are inquiring about it via the cellphone, especially in my work as so considerably of it is summary. It just looks like a normal portion of the procedure but probably what I see as the creator isn’t what viewers see and is the title a hindrance in its place of a enable.



My Response


I have always felt it is essential to have a title – just as you would not send a kid out into the globe without having a identify, you want to give a do the job of art a token of id by the title.

Can a title hamper profits if it’s the completely wrong title? This is an intriguing issue and I am likely to acknowledge that I’ve in no way really seemed at the concern that way. My gut response is that it is most likely best in most circumstances to avoid terms that would have overtly unfavorable connotations unless the which means of the piece (social or political commentary, for case in point) is immediately tied to the title. Phrases like “Contamination” or “Scum” are heading to land on the completely wrong side of this line.

Men and women could be intrigued by the titles, but I think they are heading to question them selves, “do I want to carry ‘Contaminated Water’ or ‘Pond Scum’ into my dwelling?”

There are going to be exceptions – some prospective buyers like to have something sudden, a little something perceived as detrimental, into their selection for the minimal shock value it may bring, but this is going to be the a really modest minority. On regular it is going to have a smaller unfavorable effects on your profits.

The far more vital challenge for me is that I guess I just don’t see the contamination or scum in the items you mention – I consider the operate is beautiful and so the title seems not to match.

I’m not absolutely sure the “Monet” title is the suitable just one, but I would not see it as destructive in any way.

This is not a make or split issue, but I am constantly on the lookout to optimize profits.


Jean’s Reaction to the Opinions

This write-up has surely produced some appealing stories and comments relating to my Contaminated Drinking water sequence, naming artwork in general, and so forth. I imagine the common consensus is that naming art is important, which I have normally adopted. Most of my artwork begins with a vague title and improvements 3, 4, or much more moments for the duration of the prolonged course of action of generation.

I assume I devote far too substantially powerful time with my get the job done about an prolonged time period of time (pretty typically a 12 months or two). Due to the fact I perform within just inches of my work, I see issues that many other people don’t see on initial approaching or observing the operate. Portion of that may well be influenced mainly because my do the job is really normally more summary than representational operate which may possibly be simpler to title because you have a distinct location, person, thing, etcetera.

Element of it might also be mainly because I see the globe in a diverse gentle. Everything is not relaxed, tranquil scenes of forest, lakes, oceans, ponds, wildlife, and so on. Seeking extra carefully can provide about astonishing discoveries. I am seriously affected (consciously and unconsciously) by all of the negativity in the environment the last ten years or so which is what is revealed evening immediately after evening on Tv, information feeds on line, newspapers, and so on. It seems to be on calamity immediately after a different – wild fires, oil spills, earthquakes, tsunamis, industrial incidents, war, famine, and human, social and environmental degradation, etcetera.

I have appear to the conclusion that it is truly too late (and inappropriate) to rename these items which was I imagine the concern that I was broaching. The 1st items in the referenced collection have been juried into exhibitions by prominent individuals in the artwork planet, won several juror awards at exhibitions, and been highlighted in several guides and magazines as they are named proper now. Modifying would grow to be perplexing I imagine for people today who have seen the operate in human being, tracking the history of the parts, and so on.

If viewers get earlier the title and see anything else this sort of as a hint of beauty, a feeling of hope, or some thing else entirely that sparks a relationship for them, then my art has accomplished its occupation: designed a response, started off a dialogue, or got the viewer pondering in yet another path irrespective of whether it is optimistic or unfavorable.

What would you say to Jean? What has your encounter been titling your get the job done? Have you witnessed title’s make the big difference in producing the sale? Leave your thoughts and strategies belowl