The TITLE(date) project aggregates artwork titles and other metadata from art collections and exhibitions. Art collections in the widest sense can be the works of one artist, an art institutional or private art collection, a collection of ‘favourite’ work on a phone. For now it contains several databases, which in time will be merged into one. This ongoing project is created by the artist in collaboration with other artists, galleries, and collectors. Some data is gathered independently from online sources.
The metadata gathered is primarily artwork title, date and name. Depending on the gallery it might also contain exhibition metadata, such as exhibition dates, exhibition title, and the names of organisers and curators. If all this data is linked it becomes a relational database.
Pictures of the works are not included. The focus is on the artwork title, date and artist name because it is the one ‘thing’ that is used to refer to a particular artwork in any writing and depiction. It refers and identifies a particular work without the usual problems of copyrights associated with a photograph of the work. From the perspective of ‘negation of the art object’ you could say that a title is the minimum needed for us to refer to an artwork that is not present. Usually if the artwork has no title and the artist doesn’t name it untitled, the archivist or collector will give it a title, for example, untitled, no title or a title in the form of a description of the work.
Some artworks have more than one title, acquired over time and reflecting the artist’s ideas and complexities of it’s history. Piet Mondriaan, for instance, gave his abstract work no titles only temporary names, used only once for a particular exhibition.*) For example Tableau No.1 was also named as Composition No.1 and Compositie 7, 1914. Many of his paintings received then titles after his death, and they are a combination of names given by Mondriaan and/or owners, curators etc. Mondriaan motivated his insistence not giving definite titles by saying: “because only the rendering must express this general idea, not the representation.” It poses the question if and how the artist sees a title as part of the work. Does it take part in the expression of the work? If a title is only an indication or reference it might not have any bearing on the art work. If a title is more than that it might be considered a textual part of the work. As a consequence the artwork becomes then a hybrid between text and image or any other materialisation of the work. Pushing this further I started to see artwork titles as another artist’s material. And that is exactly where I ended up with the TITLE(date) project.
The aggregated artwork titles are reposited online at SourceForge. Some title collections are published as artist’s books.
*) For Mondriaan’s artwork titles and quotes in this paragraph see: Mondrian, Piet, Robert P. Welsh, and Joop M. Joosten. Piet Mondrian: Catalogue Raisonné. Vol. 1 & 2, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998. p.II 186-189.