PicassoMio Art Blog
Artwork Titles - How to name art?
“Artists use titles to illustrate, explicate, confound, frustrate – or justify a tax deduction. Even Untitled suggests a meaning.”
- Kelly Devine Thomas, 2005
While the name of an artwork remains an important part of the artwork, itself, the names remain an enigma to most viewers and even to artists, themselves.
Artists have been inspired by cities, songs, people, emotions, philosophy, literature, and practically everything under the sun. James Whistler named his artworks after musical compositions, while others such as Picasso and Cézanne let their friends and colleagues name their works.
While some artists and experts claim that titles can control what the viewer sees, most artists and experts agree that naming the artwork is an important part of the work, itself. In the words of Leo Steinberg, the art historian: “Titles are important. They are like clothes you wear when you step out of doors.” Gallerists, curators, researchers, and other professionals also often complain when the works are not titled. In the case of untitled works, Robert Rosenblum of Guggenheim Museum and New York University stated: “I can never find the one I am looking for”. Contemporary legend, Baldessari believes that not naming a work is a “copout” on the part of the artist.
Often artworks are about communication, using titles can be used to emphasize what the artist is trying to articulate, in his her work. In other words, an untitled work is essentially a commercial suicide. We can assure you that none of the best selling works of this century or last are called “Untitled”. How boring would that be?
[Image of an artwork called untitled]
From the perspective of the collectors and viewers, a title can suddenly add more weight to the artwork. For example, an abstract painting, in blue and yellow, is suddenly more attractive to a collector if is called “California” or a portrait of a woman is more tempting if it is named, say, after a romantic poem “I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You” by Pablo Neruda.
Some of the more interesting names that we know of are:
[Image of The physical impossibility]
- Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoselles dÁvignon was originally named The Philosophical Brothel (we like the original version better that the more boring one, naturally)
- More Love Hours Than Can be Repaid, Wall Hanging, Mike Kelly (that’s what we call a cool name)
- The Banality of Evil, Rock Painting, Daniel Lefcourt (makes us laugh)
- Lick and Lather, Soap and Chocolate Sculpture, Janine Antoni (this one makes us rather creative…)
- Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? , Paul Gauguin (we love him even more because of this name)
- The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, Tiger Shark in Formaldehyde, Damien Hirst (only Damien could think of this one)
- My Heart Belongs to Dada but I know Motherwell, John Baldessari (John, you are a rock star…)
So, dear creators, create, look around, invent – or the other way around, there are no limit to fascinating names.
And to collectors, we say; if you are buying an artwork called “untitled”, insist that the artist give it a name and if he or she is too boring to give it a name. Hell, go ahead, you give it one…