How to keep an artist’s work alive? — choose the right online tool
The Artist Estate: A Handbook for Artists, Executors, and Heirs, is a must read for artists, their family members and their heirs, artist’s studio managers, artist’s estate executives, artist-endowed foundation managers and board members, gallerists, and gallery/artist liaison managers, service providers for artists’ estates, art lawyers & tax advisors, and all those who have a stake in the industry.
Edited by Loretta Würtenberger, co-founder of The Institute for Artists’ Estates in Berlin, this invaluable book offers “appropriate financial models, possible legal frameworks, as well as advice on how to properly handle the art market, museums, and academia.” A whole chapter entitled “How to Keep an Artist’s Work Alive?” is devoted to the catalogue raisonné enterprise.
“Whether it provides an overview of the artist’s oeuvre in digital or print form, a catalogue raisonné establishes the fundamental categories of the art in the catalogue, as well as influences the way we discuss the art. Because it creates value, the originators and editors also carry a great ethical responsibility. In order to maintain the integrity of the artist and the authenticity of his or her work, the meticulous scholarly assessment must be carried out independent of any financial interests. As a ‘register of reason,’ the work on the catalogue raisonné requires diligence more than intellectual brilliance,” remarks the art historian Anette Tietenberg, who works in Braunschweig. Yet the catalogue raisonné also requires more than organizational abilities, as it must harness ‘the power of facts to ensure its future relevance.’
“Today, a catalogue raisonné should be digitized; it almost goes without saying that online databases can be expanded and updated easily. Moreover, the scope of the online catalogue raisonné should encompass the following:
1. Links to internal archival material
2. Links to documentation such as checklists and exhibition photographs
3. The integration of video and audio materials
4. The possibility of incorporating negative or inconclusive results, so that the limits of previous research are well understood
5. Links to external sources such as archival holdings and press articles or other publications, as well as public search engines and databases.
“… it is also imperative to select a database that can be used internally, but also provides a module for web publishing. Among other things, this module then helps determine which sets of information developed for internal use should be published online and for whom. [The New York archivist Caroline] Gabrielli recommends asking at the outset: Who should have full access to the catalogue raisonne? Should access only be local or should it be published on the web? Does the technology allow necessary information to be linked? How much does this particular solution cost? Does it necessitate ongoing technical support, or must separate IT providers be brought on?”
Now, take a look at the best example out there, bar none: The The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cezanne: An online catalogue raisonné under the direction of Walter Feilchenfeldt, Jayne Warman and David Nash.
Whether you are starting a catalogue raisonné from scratch, or looking for a more robust product for your current data, panOpticon has a package that will meet your exact needs.
”The Estate of David Smith is currently using panOpticon for our catalogue raisonné and archives databases and for more general inventory purposes.
“Although we don’t plan to publish the David Smith Sculpture catalogue raisonné online (it will be published as a three-volume book, by Yale University Press), we may decide post-publication to turn on the public-facing features of our panOpticon database in order to share updates and new finds.
“We’ve found panOpticon to be a remarkably good partner, working with us to migrate the data from our old system, and willing to add features and customize aspects of the basic panOpticon system so we could make it work well for our particular needs.”
— Susan Cooke
Associate Director / The Estate of David Smith
David Smith Catalogue Raisonné
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Above: Paul Cézanne in his studio at Les Lauves, in front of the Large Bathers now at the Barnes Foundation. Photo by Émile Bernard, 1904.