Can you help a British artist choose his database software?
December 9, 2010 4:02 AM   Subscribe

Do you have any experience working with art gallery-specific database systems? I'd love some advice on choosing the right software to help organize a mid-career artist and his sprawling archive.

I've just started a partnership with an established artist on a specific project. I was brought into the fold via a mutual friend who was recently hired as the artist's admin, and she has the formidable task of organizing years and years of this guy's back catalog. Contacts, editions, fabrication tracking, client lists... so far everything has been run on the proverbial wing and prayer, but now that we're on board its been decided that a revamp is in order.

The artist wants to install a LAN in his Mac-based studio, and have us share access to some central database software that can keep track of all the relevant info. The problem is that none of us have used off-the-rack art gallery software before, and now we're paralyzed by the choice. We have no consistent IT support, so we want a package that will do it all for us instead of having to build our own.

So far we've found three promising database systems:

Artsystems Studio looks like the most relevant to our needs (it's also the least expensive) but would require us to run it through XP. They claim a native Mac version is on the way, but we don't really want to wait.

Artlogic has the benefit of being a British-based company, but it's a cloud-based database, with all the attendant pros and cons.

EmbARK is apparently the go-to DB for heavy-duty museums, which might be overkill for our needs.

All three systems have impressive client lists, making it hard to differentiate utility by reputation. Have you used one of these databases and are able to sing its praises/deficiencies? Are we exaggerating the problems of running Windows software through a Mac, or using cloud databases? Is there another DB that would provide a better option? This previous question does have some relevant answers (including Artbase which I'll have to look into) but I'm hoping for some opinions on the programs listed above.

All hail the hive mind in its infinite wisdom!
posted by Chichibio to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I have no experience with the products you are listing, but from how you explain your needs I would take a very close look at Filemaker Pro. It is a general database server system where you create your databases in a quite user friendly environment. It has the option for web interfaces, can run as a server-clinet setup, and even an iPad app. You could either try to set it up yourself or hire a developer that does it for you. This seems to be a place to find one:
posted by brorfred at 6:07 AM on December 9, 2010

If it fits your needs, you might consider having the system on the Web. (Possibly on a hosted account, but also remember OSX basically ships with a web server ready to go.) Omeka is a CMS geared specifically toward handling museum collections and such. A small potential side benefit here could be using the same system to produce an actual web site as we as internally manage the collection.

Their forum has a "use cases" section you can probably lob questions at. I can't say I've used it myself, however, just been tracking it for a while.
posted by Su at 8:06 AM on December 9, 2010

I have to echo brorfred - I built a database for my mother to track her pieces over several continents and a dozen galleries - filemaker pro made it easy for her to see where her pieces are, pricing, sales/commission/consignment, composition & materials, and a myriad of other various data points. She's also able to attach a photo of the piece (she uses sometimes up to 10-12 separate sections/pieces for a work) so she can keep track of everything.
Filemaker pro's the way to go.
posted by Seeba at 10:06 AM on December 9, 2010

i can't offer any first-hand experience, but gyst may be another one to add to your list to consider. (disclaimer: we have sold this software at the store i own, and i know some of the people behind it.)
posted by jimw at 12:04 PM on December 10, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers, everybody. We'll be resolving our hardware needs in February, then looking at all the software options that I've investigated. It seems like everyone here is voting for Filemaker, so I'll definitely include it on the list.

Thanks again!
posted by Chichibio at 3:07 PM on January 8, 2011

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