Artists: Your Work Deserves A Title

Untitled by Peter Doig

Untitled by Peter Doig

Artspace posted this on my twitter feed today.  It’s a lovely, atmospheric work.  I only wish it had a title.

It can be hard to think of a good title.  So hard that it’s tempting to just not title it at all and let the viewer make up their own mind what the painting is about.  This was really popular during the Minimalist movement in the 1970s.

But the problem with calling your painting “Untitled” is that there are thousands of other works out there without titles either.  They’re all “Untitled”.  That makes it all the more likely that your work will get lost in a sea of titlelessness and no one will see it.  If you only paint as pure self-expression and don’t care if anyone else ever notices what you do, fine.  But most of us want to connect with people, to communicate with them.  Give them some words that will help them get a handle on your work.

Even if you have to label your painting something as obtuse as Subterranean Omniscience, give it a name!  If you get stuck, choose random words from the dictionary.  I myself am fond of scientific terms.  For example, I love the word “electrocharge” and I can’t wait to make a painting that would fit it.

Threshold by Lisa Pressman

Threshold by Lisa Pressman

Here’s a discussion among artists about how they title their paintings, from Lisa Pressman’s art blog.  There are some lovely abstract works to see there too.  Like this one.

Art collector Michael Corbin asks:

Why on earth would an artist go through all of the trouble to create something and then upon completion, decline to give it a name? Untitled? Why? Can you imagine having a baby and not giving it a name or calling it, “Untitled”?

Alyson Stanfield at Artbizblog names 5 reasons to title your art:  “Titles don’t have to say everything, but they should say something.

German painter Neo Rausch tells the Art Newspaper:  “You won’t find an Untitled among my works—it is simply disrespectful to the picture, the viewer and, ultimately, to the gallery owner.”

So there you have it, folks.

Agree or disagree?  Share your thoughts below.

One thought on “Artists: Your Work Deserves A Title

  1. Pingback: In which I am distracted by shiny things. Now with 100% more photo overanalysis « Exiled Stardust

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