While Johan Zoffany’s “Tribuna of the Uffizi” depicts the collection of an 18th-century English gentleman, the painting also captures the sheer scale of work that many are forced to deal with when they’re grappling with artist estates (image courtesy Wikipedia)

The business of artists’s estates is becoming a big business, but the realities facing artists today aren’t always as glamorous as some might think. For every multi-millionaire dollar Robert Rauschenberg estate, there are thousands of lesser-known talents whose families have to confront the tough decisions about what to do with hundreds of artworks and archives.

To sort out the realities facing artists and their loved ones, I invited two experts in the field who deal extensively with artist estates. Saul Ostrow is a critic, curator, and a principal at Art Legacy Planning, and Jason Andrew is a curator and partner at Artist Estate Studio.

Both of them are on the front lines of helping artists and their families decide what to do with their art after they pass away. I invited them to share their expertise in an episode that is a must-listen for those who are faced (or may be one day) with helping the artists in their lives to plan for the inevitable.

A special thanks to Twig Twig for the music to this week’s episode. You can listen to that and more at twigtwig.bandcamp.com and other streaming services.

This and more in our current episode of our weekly Art Movements podcast.

Subscribe to Hyperallergic’s podcast on iTunesRadioPublicRSS, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

14 replies on “What Should Artists Do With Their Work After They Die?”

  1. Not cool doing podcasts! Where is the accessiblity for millions of Deaf people? We need text version. Can you please provide a text version? I along with many other Deafs would like to know what to do with artworks when an artist dies. Like me for example, as a Deaf artist I would like to know. Thank you.

  2. Lively Informative Podcast all the way through. A great primer that impelled me to write this. As an artist of paintings, etc, – but also on my own, personally created a huge unique video archive of covering decades of openings & exhibitions initially SoHo, of Castelli, Gagosian, Pace, Boone, Deitch & dozens of others some you mention – big & small most now long shuttered & then expanded all over NYC. In 2001 MoMA gave me a solo evening in their largest theater to show a some clips describing my archive as world’s best. I’ve continued & far more than the art with hundreds of lively mini interviews during openings. I’ve the last 4 years gradually come up with a new way evolving it into a whole new creative interactive realm never imagined before fully integrated with a book well on it’s way. This is cutting edge. If there are any with serious interest in forming a relationship concerning my Archive please Email & we can then dialogue by FB Messaging. BTW – I used to know Sol Ostrow in earlier days of SoHo. Much info about my archive already exists a long while. i’ve written about it to known art writers FB threads besides my FB page. It will be fascinating & dynamic just what our new age needs.

  3. “What Should Artists Do With Their Work After They Die?” Not much, under the circumstances. Best to reconsider that headline. It resembles that line Volvo used: ‘brakes apply automatically, in case of an accident.’ Artists have to take the possibility of death seriously, getting an inventory together so their estate doesn’t have to struggle to get works back from a gallery. I’ve read of more than one estate that have been robbed galleries that pretend not to have artworks, so they can sell them privately at death-inflated prices.

  4. This is an easy one for me. My wife (bless her heart) is hauling it all to the dump and turinng my home studio into a guest bedroom. She told me that if I really want to save something that I should bury it in the backyard for someone in the future to find. . Ha! She’s a keeper!!

  5. 1. Agreed with other commenters that a transcript would be greatly appreciated.
    2. Fwiw, it’s often possible to export and print emails and texts; at least, I can export all the emails in one of my Mac Mail folders as a pdf (and I do file my emails in folders), and I can use software called Phoneview to export all the texts in a message string on my iPhone. That said, the archivist at the nearest large museum seems completely clueless about how to deal with digital records.
    3. I’d also guess that artists’ websites can be a useful reference resource; but how many of these are being preserved?

  6. An artist can’t do anything with their work after they die, for the simple reason that they’re dead.

  7. I like podcasts, but like text too.

    If you produce something collectable you should be planning before your death on how your estate is disposed of. If you kick off and your art looks like it is saleable, no doubt the pickers will disperse it on eBay. If my extended fam got ahold of my work, it would end up in the nearest dumpster.

    People, family photo albums, home movies, weddings, it all goes on eBay.

    Mastery of the art of hand-coloring. D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C.


  8. Capt Flash here. Been doing art for fifty plus years Digital has changed everything. The question is, why save anything at all, period. Where there use 2B a thousand competitors now there are a million. There is veritable blizzard of images. Who cares what some one did 50 yrs ago when a million new images are produced daily. The business of creating an image on canvas is history, and by extension galleries

  9. How about the contents of your studio? Guessing the art education programs at the local museum might like a chance at hauling away everything, maybe with some cash as a kicker.

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