The Artist’s Legacy Workbook
Published by Bryan Memorial Gallery, Jeffersonville, VT, 2015

Supported by an Innovations and Collaborations Grant from
The Vermont Community Foundation

Buy the Workbook: 40 Pages, printed, with worksheets and samples. $12.95 »Buy Now

Download the PDF: Easily downloadable format. $8.00 »Buy Now

For artistic executors and heirs

The Gallery phone rings again. A local lawyer is handling the estate of an artist whose heirs think they may have inherited some valuable paintings. What to do? While it is hoped for their sake that this inheritance did not come as a surprise, reviewing the section "For the Artist" of this workbook will suggest some alternatives as to how to proceed.

This workbook proposes to help you frame some questions to ask yourself. You may want to adjust the procedures in your studio, making life not only easier on your heirs but also on yourself.

Step 1. What do you have?

Make an inventory and snap a picture of each painting.

You can find a sample inventory page here

The information you will be recording includes: what to include, and what to look for.

Step 2. What is it's condition?

The condition of an object affects its price, and none more so than original works of art. Conditions such as foxing,* flaking, fading, warping and even dust and dirt can affect the value of artwork and its desirability on the market. Learn what to look for, how to evaluate the condition of the work, how it should be stored and what to avoid.

Step 3. What’s it worth?

If the work has monetary value, what’s it worth on the market today? If the artist has a website or checklists from recent exhibits, the figures should be indicative of what the work has been selling for, assuming the works have been selling. If this information is not available, seek an appraisal from a certified art appraiser, respected auction house, an online appraisal service or a reliable retail gallery. The appraiser might be able to point out things about the artwork you haven’t noticed, from condition issues to other secrets the painting holds.

Step 4. Apart from following the artist’s instructions, what do you want to keep, donate, give away or sell?

This decision is so personal that it is tempting to just leave a big blank space here for you to fill in. How we determine what we keep in our homes and in our families reflects a myriad of decisions and facts that are intimate. Learn the options (keep, donate, give-away, sell) and how to evaluate each one for your situation.

Step 5. Consider how to show the artist’s work.

Inevitably, the topic of a memorial exhibition comes up at the death of an artist. While you may wish to show some work at the funeral or memorial service, it is best to wait until afterwards to organize a full-scale exhibition. The passage of time can serve to make such an undertaking more meaningful and enjoyable for all involved.

Who should organize the exhibit: A gallery or an arts organization or a school, the family or you? Why should it be done: for sales, posterity, or a concluding gesture that may be needed by many, such as the students of a teaching artist, for closure?

These and other questions explored.


This workbook is the first step, and we welcome your communications about situations you are dealing with, questions you have, and answers you’ve discovered, to share with others going through a similar time in their lives. Contact information for the Bryan Gallery is in the workbook. Whether the death of a loved one comes slowly or suddenly; whether you are prepared or unprepared for the loss, when you survive an artist, you survive not only a loved one, but also someone who leaves behind a career with tangible assets. No one can be expected to maintain an artist’s career exactly as the artist would have. However, it is hoped the notes in this workbook will assist those who survive to carry out the artist’s wishes.

Buy the Workbook: 40 Pages, printed, with worksheets and samples. $12.95 »Buy Now

Download the PDF: Easily downloadable format. $8.00 »Buy Now

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