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Style Manual

Works of art

Cite works of art using the author–date system. Attribute artwork with correct references to help people find the source and relevant information.

Cite works of art correctly

Works of art include:

  • paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures and ceramics
  • other physical artworks such as street and neon sign art
  • ephemeral and performance artwork
  • antiquities – objects from ancient times such as coins and pottery
  • posters, maps, clip art, photographs and cartoons
  • digital art – art created using technology such as video, computer or laser beam.

You might need to reference works of art for exhibitions and programs or when using decorative images in digital content. The reference must:

  • provide all the information someone needs to identify the work properly
  • comply with copyright laws.

Examples of in-text citations and reference lists on this page follow the author–date system, as this is the most common way of citing works of art in government content.

Copyright requirements

You must attribute copyright material you reference. This includes images and works of art.

Include all the details required by open access licences (read how to attribute Creative Commons).

Read the government copyright rules in the Australian Government intellectual property manual.

Prioritise accessibility

Images, including works of art, may be inaccessible to:

  • people who have low vision
  • people who use screen readers to access content
  • users of mobile phones.

When including images of art in content, ensure they:

  • are sized for easier viewing
  • will display correctly on mobile phones or other small screen devices
  • can be made larger by people, without loss of content or functionality
  • include alt text so that descriptions of the image can be read by screen readers or mobile users wishing to limit data usage.

Use of the author–date system also improves accessibility. It places references within the main text so there is no need for superscript reference markers. This helps make references readable for screen readers and more accessible to mobile users.

Accessibility requirements

Only include images on a page if they meet a real user need.

Prepare short alt text for images and describe the relevant features of the work of art in the discussion to explain the relevance of the image.

WCAG quick reference: Non-text content – level A

Use italics and sentence case for artwork titles

Italicise the titles of individual artworks and use sentence case.

Sometimes the artist has made a different typographic choice for the title. If so, follow the capitalisation of the original. Include any numbers or punctuation in exactly the same way as the artist does.

From the second mention, you can use a shortened version of the name if it makes sense.

If the title is in another language, write it in that language. Use the exact spelling. You can include the English translation of the title.

Example

Margaret Olley’s Portrait in the mirror is one of her notable works. Portrait is usually included in retrospectives of Olley’s work.

Parliament’s forecourt mosaic is based on Michael Nelson Jagamara’s Possum and Wallaby Dreaming.

Robinson won the Wynne Prize for Creation landscape earth and sea. Creation is a stunning example of Robinson’s understanding of light.

William Yaxley used mandarin peel in his sculpture, The mangrove monster no. 2.

Bessie Davidson's Fleurs (flowers), completed in 1942, was sold in 2017.

Other titles of artworks

Sometimes people call works of art by a name other than that given to them by the artist. Italicise the informal names of artworks in the same way that you would with the formal titles.

Example

Jackson Pollock titled his 1952 work Number 11 before it became known as Blue poles in a 1954 exhibition.

Untitled works

Sometimes an artist may choose to call a work ‘Untitled’ or not give it a name. Write ‘Untitled’ in italics with an initial capital letter. Include the year of production and the artist’s name.

You might not be able to find the year of production. In this case, include the artist’s name and the medium of the work in square brackets.

Example

Hunter’s Untitled (1968) is part of the permanent collection in the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Dinh’s Untitled [oil on hardboard] was recently purchased for a private collection.

Use title case and italics for artwork series

An individual artwork is sometimes part of a series. Write the titles of series of unique works of art in italics. Use title case (maximal capitalisation). Write the titles of the individual works of art in the series in italics, too. Capitalise and punctuate according to the original title.

Example

The exhibition included Coffin with flowers and potters wheel with landscape decoration, a drawing in the Potter series by Arthur Boyd.

Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series is currently touring Australia. Ned’s sister Margaret features in one of the works, Quilting the armour, painted in 1947.

Modern works in a series might not use capital letters at all.

Example

flight research #6 is part of Rosemary Laing’s Flight Research series.

Use the details you have to cite ephemeral and performance art

Ephemeral and performance art can be difficult to cite. The key points to remember are:

  • Use the artwork’s correct name in use at a particular time.
  • Follow style rules for titles and series. For example, write the title as the artist has and use italics for published works.
  • Include context and details about the artwork to help people understand the work.
Example

Wrapped Coast, One Million Square Feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Australia was a work undertaken by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude in 1968 and 1969. They used erosion-control fabric and polypropylene rope to wrap the coastline of Little Bay, where it remained for 10 weeks. Originally called Packed Coast, sale of preparatory drawings funded the project.

It’s important to include detailed information because:

  • changing technology blurs the line between art forms and results in new art forms
  • art forms change name and format
  • the phrase ‘work of art’ includes the use of social media by the artist to discuss the artwork
  • the term ‘art’ may extend to and include the discussion of a work of art on social media.

Use roman type for exhibition titles

Write the titles of exhibitions in roman type and use the same capitalisation as the museum or gallery uses.

Example

Cai Guo-Qiang’s Heritage (2013) is part of GOMA’s Water exhibition.

The Asia Pacific Triennial attracts visitors from all over Australia.

Use italics for titles of exhibition catalogues

The titles of exhibition catalogues usually have the same name as the exhibition.

Treat catalogues as books. Write catalogue titles in italics and use sentence case for the title.

Example

The Philip Bacon Galleries produced a catalogue named Important Australian paintings. It accompanied the 2011 exhibition of the same name. [The exhibition name is ‘Important Australian Paintings’.]

Exhibition catalogues in a reference list

Include the name of the exhibition and the format of the catalogue in the reference list. After the title of the exhibition, include the full start and end dates for the exhibition.

Rule: Author or Gallery Name (Year) Title of exhibition [format], Day Month Year of exhibition, Publisher, Location of Gallery.

Example

Philip Bacon Gallery (2011) Important Australian paintings [printed exhibition catalogue], 31 May to 25 June 2011, Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane.

For online catalogues, hyperlink the title of the catalogue and include an accessed date. If the catalogue is a PDF, link to the page where the PDF is hosted, instead of to the PDF. If you can’t link to a host page, include ‘PDF’ in square brackets after the format information.

Rule: Author or Gallery Name (Year) Title of exhibition [format] [PDF], Day Month Year of exhibition, Publisher, Place, accessed Day Month Year.

Example

Campbell H (2010) Colour, rhythm, design: wood & lino cuts of the 20s and 30s [online exhibition catalogue], 13 March to 11 July 2010, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, accessed 23 February 2020.

Include artwork details in captions

Websites, catalogues, brochures and books often include details of artworks. The style and details may vary depending on the publication and context. Use common abbreviations where possible, and be consistent.

Captions with images of artworks in digital content

If your content features an image of an artwork, it must accompanied by a caption with:

  • the full details of the work of art
  • copyright and permission information, if necessary.

Rule: Creator Full Name (Year) Title or description of work [medium], Website, Exhibition or Gallery, Location of Gallery, © Creator, courtesy: Creator or Gallery, accessed Date Month Year

Example

Megan Cope (1982) Quandamnooka people [hand-cast concrete oyster shells, copper slag, foam support structure], RE FORMATION 2019, Australia, © and image courtesy: Megan Cope

Angela Tiatia (2015) Holding on [still], Sullivan + Strumpf Gallery, Sydney, © Angela Tiatia, courtesy: Sullivan + Strumpf Gallery

Captions for artworks in collections, exhibitions and catalogues

Captions appear as labels beside artworks that are hung in exhibitions and collections. They also support images of artworks in exhibition catalogues. The caption includes specific information about the work and the artist as well as the name of the museum or gallery.

For each collection, exhibition or catalogue, use either a long or short caption style and use that style consistently. If it’s a solo exhibition, don’t include the artist’s name on each artwork.

Write long captions in this order:

  • artist
  • title of artwork
  • year of creation of the artwork
  • medium
  • size
  • name of museum/gallery
  • date of acquisition
  • location of museum/gallery
  • whether the work is part of a bequest.
Example

Sidney Nolan
Snake (Rainbow Serpent), 1970–72
9.14 x 45.72 metres, ink, dye, and wax crayon on card
Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania
© The Trustees of the Sidney Nolan Trust

Eveline Kotai
3 x 3 x 3, 1998–99
Susanne Castleden, printer
stencil
artist’s proof, published state
edition of 39; plus artist’s proofs
sheet 27.0 (h) x 27.0 (w) cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gordon Darling Australasian Print Fund

Write short captions in this order:

  • artist
  • year of creation of the artwork
  • title of artwork
  • medium
  • name of museum/gallery
  • location of museum/gallery.
Example

Nolan S (1970–1972)
Snake (Rainbow Serpent)
wall painting
Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

Kotai E (1998–1999)
3 x 3 x 3
stencil print
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Mention the name of the museum or gallery in text

When you write about artwork, include the name of the institution that holds the work in its collection.

Example

The Sydney Nolan Gallery in MONA houses Snake, a 46-metre artwork by Sydney Nolan.

List artworks after the main reference list

For in-text citations, include the artist, year of creation and title of the artwork in parentheses. Depending on the type of publication, you might include other details (such as the medium or format).

Include the full source information in a list of artworks after the reference list.

Rule: Creator C (Year) Title or description of work [medium], Website, Exhibition or Gallery, Location of Gallery, accessed Date Month Year.

Example

The collection includes Long (The spirit of the plains 1897). [In-text citation]

Long S (1897) The spirit of the plains [painting], Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia. [Reference list entry]

Release notes

The digital edition includes new information about how to cite works of art. It expands on sixth edition guidance with information about catalogue details; and how to caption artworks in digital content, or for collections, exhibitions and catalogues.

The Content Guide did not have specific information on citing works of art.

About this page

References

American Psychological Association (2020) ‘10.14: Visual works’, Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th edn, American Psychological Association, Washington DC.

Artspace Editors (15 April 2014) ‘From AbEx to ZKM: Our guide to the acronyms of the art world’, Artspace, accessed 22 January 2020.

Kennard S and Mitchell B (2019) Artlines: Issue 4, GOMA, South Brisbane.

Monash University (2020) ‘Citing and referencing: ephemera’, Library guides, Monash University website, accessed 22 January 2020.

National Gallery of Australia (n.d.) Text style guide for gallery writers (publications) [internal style guide], National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

University of Chicago (2017) ‘14.235 Citing paintings, photographs and sculpture’, Chicago manual of style, 17th edn, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

This page was updated Monday 21 September 2020.

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