One of my best friends and biggest fans often bugs me about deleting things from my gallery.
During the past 10 years I've had an online presence, I had a lot of stuff in my galleries and portfolios. At that point in my life, it was something I was proud of. As the time went by and I got better, I was no longer proud of it so I removed it from my gallery.
I periodically delete things from my portfolio. I don't have a set time-frame, but let's say that once in 2 years I go over my entire gallery and remove everything I deem not "good enough" for my current standards. And it's not just that old work gets deleted, because some of the older pieces survived, while some newer work didn't. The choice is entirely subjective and probably also depends on my current mood — but once deleted, it doesn't ever make it back.
The same was with my design career — in the beginning every website design I've made was a part of my portfolio. Nowadays my web design portfolio is pretty empty. As my standards rose, what I did before was no longer something I wanted to showcase. The majority of designs I did at my day job simply didn't make the cut. Not because I wasn't capable of doing better work, but because I didn't know how to take a stand and was pushed around by clients.
EDIT 2019: The website portfolio is completely gone and consolidated into my brand identity portfolio. It's yet another way in which I have cleared and reorganized my work to show only the work I'm proud of.
Portfolios should display the kind of work you'd like to do in the future
People who want to work with me always tell me they saw this one project I did that they liked very much, so they knew I was the right person for them. They come to me knowing what they can expect.
This is great, obviously – except, when you don't want to do another project like that in the future. If that's the case, you better remove it because as long as it's there, it will attract people who like it, and who will want you to do something like that again.
On the other hand, if you haven't had the chance to work on a project you'd really love to do yet, the best way to attract customers who will hire you for that is to do it for yourself and publish it.
Your portfolio has the potential to attract your ideal clients – or less than ideal clients. Or the kinds of clients you wouldn't ever want to meet again. Use that potential wisely. Don't showcase what you're no longer willing to do.
You want your ideal clients to find you, and they will find you much easier if they don't have to go through the clutter that is "everything I did since my freshman year" portfolio. It's better to leave people hungry for more (so they come back again), than bore them with stuff that isn't very interesting.
I choose how I want to present myself
I'm constantly changing as a person and as an artist, and my criteria changes as I evolve. It's a normal process, and I expect that in a couple of years the majority of my current work will probably be removed from my galleries, replaced by something newer and in my opinion, better.
Some people don't like it. Some people demand the explanation why I remove works that are, in their opinion, amazing.
I remove them because I don't think they're amazing, and that they accurately represent my abilities and my vision. And since it's my website, I make the call. Sometimes it's a tough call. Sometimes you'll offend people by removing their favorite work.
Sometimes they'll want to know why, and "because it's old work" is not a good enough reason for them.
I do it because I choose where I want to head to in the future, and if something I did in the past feels off (sort of like an embarrassing high school photo), I tuck it away.
Sometimes I delete it from my computer altogether. Sometimes I shred the actual physical artwork and throw it in the fire.
It doesn't matter if someone adores it.
It doesn't matter if everyone else except me think it's great.
What matters is what I think, because it's my work and my responsibility.
I'm sorry if anyone is offended by it, but I don't owe it to anyone to keep my works online forever.
Nothing is forever
I have a folder named "Art" on my computer where I save my favorite artworks. This folder has hundreds, possibly thousands of images. I couldn't keep track of each and every artist whose work I loved, so I saved my favorite works to my computer so I can look at them whenever I wanted.
Some of these artists have disappeared from the internet (remember Linda Bergkvist?).
Some have deceased.
If you like something, save it. Cherish it. Print it and put it on your wall.
Please, do not depend on artists to provide it for you forever. We're fickle creatures, and our visions and desires are unique. Sometimes what we do is not what you want from us, and there's nothing wrong with that.