Changing titles July 7, 2009 Robert Genn This morning, BJ Adams of Washington, DC, asked, "What are your thoughts on changing the names of artwork to fit a venue, exhibit, or buyer? For example, is it okay to modify my often generic titles to more specific places, particularly when sending things off to shows? Is this wrong or deceitful? And, if changed, should new titles stay that way?" Thanks, BJ. Let me first commend your insight on the importance of titles. Very often a title is the bridge that carries the viewer into the work and helps provide a significant "Aha" moment to make the connection. While you have a wide range of styles and media, you generally opt for direct titles. Yours are often the "factual" type. Your title "Teapot triptych," for example, is pretty obviously three teapots. So people can get an idea of your work and titles, we've put up a selection at the top of the current clickback. http://clicks.robertgenn.com/managerial-mode.php Artists need to select titles with the most punch--titles that give added value to the work. As discussed in my book "The Painter's Keys," there are five types of titles: Sentimental, Numerical, Factual, Abstract and Mysterious. Matters of locale can be added to factual titles to beneficial effect. I would not recommend renaming a mountain or a river to build appeal or garner localized sales. Truth in provenance and respect for your history are too valuable. On the other hand, if the subject matter is fairly obvious, a mysterious title can do no harm. Conversely, mysterious works of art often benefit from the simple disclosure of facts--what, when, where, why and how are all questions the artist may consider. Sentimental titles are the last bastion of scoundrels, and can add significant barf to an already barfy work. And, yes, if further insight dictates what you think is a more evolved title, go for it. But let that title stick with the work for posterity. Best regards, Robert PS: "When exhibiting in Washington, DC, I would like to change 'Contemplating Chaos,' where the Washington Post is shown, to 'Contemplating the Post.' Okay?" (BJ Adams) Esoterica: Okay, but stick with it. In my experience, the world is made up of two main kinds of titlers--those who name their work before they start and those who try to figure out a title afterward. Further, even though a title may not be written on the back when the work is started, a title may already be chosen in the artist's mind. As you have suggested, the better titles give greater specificity, without letting the whole aardvark out of the sack.