Some basics on art catalogues

Hi there. The writer of this blog is – amongst many other things – currently focusing on exhibition catalogues. Therefore, for a while, I will document my researches here.

Here some excerpts from: Francesco Poli, “Il sistema dell’arte contemporanea. Produzione artistica, mercato, musei”, Laterza, 2011. (bad translations from me)

Catalogues are a fundamental dispositif of the art system, a tool for documentation, promotion and legitimization of artists, shows and galleries.

Art catalogues are one of the many elements through which one can acknowledge the development of the art system. [Poli highlight in the whole book the relationship between art production and the art market; he uses catalogues to sustain his sociological / economical analysis of the art system] Even until the 1960s, catalogues were sober and simple, if compared with the luxurious contemporary publication.

Elements of the catalogue:
– Paper (quality and quantity – aka thickness of the book)
– Reproduction of the works (BW vs color)
– Graphic design of the book
– Written contributions (the author can influence / enhance the success of the artist)
– Data sheets about each artwork (technical / historical analysis)
– Biography of the artist
– Bibliography

Types of catalogue:
– Exhibition catalogues: in (A) private gallery; (B) museum / public space
– Related to the art market: (C) auction; (D) annual quotation indexes (?) / those are in a critical moment.
– Werkverzeichnis / catalogue raisonné: (E) extensive documentation of the work of a (dead or living) artist . With cards for each artwork – filologic or historic facts.

Purpose of catalogues:
– cultural / critical / historical
– commercial
They cannot be always clearly separated – in general it is about promoting and adding value to the work of an artist.

 

—–

FUTURE PURPOSES:
Rather the commercial ones, my interest resides especially in the catalogues releating to an exhibition in some kind of space: the types (A) and (B). Specifically, I would focus on the relationship among the three-dimentional space of the gallery and the two dimentions of the printed page.

Nevertheless, a first definition of what catalogues might be is necessary – Poli provided a beginning of it. I will go now for some readings that could provide a sort of history of exhibition catalogues.

Furthermore, in order to properly deepen the relationship between exhibitions and catalogues, I need a set of elements that could be retrieved amongst the two poles.
A semiotic relationship maybe (whatever this mean).

I will start reviewing catalogues and start taking note about their qualities.

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