Jun 10, 2024

Art in the Digital Age: The Growth of the Online Catalogue Raisonné

Art in the Digital Age: The Growth of the Online Catalogue Raisonné

As the art world rapidly evolves, the way artworks are documented and identified is also changing. Traditionally catalogues raisonnés have been hefty, printed tomes, but with the rising adoption of technology throughout the industry, online catalogues are becoming increasingly popular.

The Role of Catalogues Raisonnés

A catalogue raisonné is the ultimate record of an artist's oeuvre, typically documenting all their officially recognised works. This makes them not only a vital resource for collectors and researchers but also a useful tool to support the identification and authentication of artworks, thereby helping to ensure the legitimacy of artworks in the market.

The Rise of Online Catalogues

There are some high-profile examples of the adoption of online catalogues:

Robert Rauschenberg, Egon Schiele, Robert Indiana, Isamu Noguchi
Images Clockwise: Robert Rauschenberg, Egon Schiele, Robert Indiana, Isamu Noguchi.

Benefits of Online Catalogues

  • Accessibility: Digital catalogues are typically freely available and more affordable to produce than their printed counterparts, making them accessible to a wider audience.
  • Enhanced Information: Online platforms offer more space for detailed information about each artwork than a printed publication. They are also easily updated as new information continually becomes available.
  • Searchable: Online catalogues function as searchable databases, allowing users to find specific works or filter results by criteria, making research and authentication faster and more efficient.

The Challenges: Time, Resources, and Identification

Even in a digital format catalogues remain challenging to create. Compiling a comprehensive and accurate listing can take decades, especially if an estate or foundation begins the process from scratch after an artist's death. Often requiring extensive research to locate and document artworks, the costs and time can be prohibitive. Information in a catalogue can also become out of date as works continue to be exhibited and change hands long into the future.

The records contained in a catalogue are also not inherently linked to the physical artworks themselves which means that even when a work is catalogued, it must still be re-identified and authenticated – a process that incurs extensive additional costs, time and resources. There has been no way to automate this process, until now.

Artclear: Bridging the Gap

Using a combination of pioneering object identification technology and data infrastructure, our system tackles uncertainties surrounding artwork authentication by indelibly linking information supplied by verified, qualified sources, to the physical works to which they relate.  

For artists this information constitutes a living record that is permanently connected to their work and can form the basis for a catalogue raisonné in the future.  

For estates and foundations, Artclear’s technology enables them to permanently connect their records to catalogued artworks. Because the works are forever connected to these records, they can be securely re-identified with ease, significantly reducing costs and time while also providing certainty as the piece moves through the world, providing a basis for collectors to report changes of ownership and significant events for inclusion in the catalogue.

Conclusion

Online catalogues raisonnés are a key example of the benefits of the digitisation of the art industry. Artclear offers powerful tools to support this development. By establishing permanent links between a catalogue’s records and physical artworks, Artclear empowers estates and foundations, as well as artists and their studios, to safeguard their legacies with a permanent living record, significantly reducing the time and costs of re-identifying artworks and enhancing the management of both an artist’s estate and their market.