When artist Eugene James Martin died in 2005, his wife, Suzanne Fredericq, decided that something had to be done. Martin was an accomplished painter, with his own brand of abstraction drawing on African American themes, an oeuvre spanning some five decades and works in important collections throughout the south -- but he had done little to promote himself during his life. This was what brought her to Artnet’s new Artists’ Works Catalogues.
The service creates an online resource for researchers, collectors and art enthusiasts hoping to get a grasp on the scope of a career, as well as a powerful promotional tool for select artists, explains project coordinator Maya Shikhman. Debuted in November 2005, the project now has 38 active catalogues, from important historical figures like Mary Cassatt to vital mid-career artists such as Rachel Whiteread -- with additional catalogues in the works on new media pioneers like Janet Cardiff, cutting-edge painters like Kehinde Wiley and avant-garde photographers like Vik Muniz.
While not designed to replace a catalogue raisonné, Artnet’s new Artists’ Works Catalogues take advantage of the dynamic nature of the web, providing a living resource that can be updated fluidly as a career progresses or as new historical facts become available. The launch time for a catalogue varies depending on availability of information (with Artnet providing the considerable data entry and image processing required for the online monograph) -- but averages about one month. Artists’ Works Catalogues is a fee-based service, sponsored by an artist or an artists’ primary representative.
The service offers a variety of useful features, including a career-spanning selection of images, which can be watermarked in case of copyright concerns. With up to 850 images in any one catalogue, the breadth of an artist’s work can be demonstrated online with a thoroughness formerly reserved for print media.
Navigating the site, the flexibility of the image library becomes apparent. The catalogue of painter Jean Dufy (1888-1964), sponsored by Galerie Jacques Bailly, features over 150 works, viewable by decade, from the Cézanne-inspired early still life Bouquet de roses (1919) to Dufy’s mature landscapes, swimming with rich blues and yellows. Leon Golub’s listing of images, on the other hand, is broken down in terms of the themes appropriate to the artist’s career-long explorations of politics and human rights: "Classical Power," "Complications of Power," "Covert Power," "Portraits of Power" and "Victims of Power."
Even more vitally, however, Artists’ Works Catalogues serve as a "hub" bringing together the most reliable info on the net: biographical information and a chronological listing of important dates in an artist’s life and records of known solo and group shows. The biography for Dieter Roth, sponsored by the Dieter Roth Foundation, provides a comprehensive timeline, offering indispensable context for an artist whose work certainly requires it -- from Roth’s 1949 nervous breakdown and suicide attempt, to his tenure as visiting critic at Yale in 1959, where he met Josef Albers, and his 1966 scuffle with a landlord in Providence, R.I., which resulted in all but one of his works at the time being destroyed.
The art-curious will discover the life of Jimmy Ernst, the son of Dada/Surrealist painter Max Ernst. Details highlighted in the Ernst chronology give insight into his character -- Jimmy was dragged to museums by his mother as a young boy and did not find a passion for painting until 1937, when he saw Picasso’s Guernica. Looking at the images in his catalogue, one can’t deny the direct correlation between father and son’s work -- both share an eerie sensibility and joined avant-garde movements.
The catalogue for Russian Pop artist Vitaly Komar, sponsored by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, allows the online researcher to glean that, the very same year (1972) that Komar launched an art movement lampooning Socialist Realist art with Alex Melamid, he also accepted a commission from the Moscow Institute of Aviation to design a Boy and Girl Scouts' summer camp.
The online catalogue format also puts an in-depth bibliography of important literature about an artist just a click away, including separate listings for books, reviews, articles and interviews. For those looking for a fresh take on the street poetry of photographer Larry Clark, his catalogue points the way to a 1995 sit-down between Clark and Elephant director Gus Van Sant in the pages of Interview. Fans of Nancy Spero will be interested to know that she penned an article titled "The Whitney Museum and Women" for Art Gallery Magazine the very same year (1971) that she made her first group show appearance in New York (in Lucy Lippard’s "Collage of Indignation II" at the New York Cultural Center). And Robert Longo fans may take note that among the first reviews of his work was one by the late postmodernist art critic Craig Owens that appeared in Art in America in 1981.
From the esoteric to the indispensable, Artnet’s new Artists’ Works Catalogues create a common point of entry for art fans on the web. The library is free to the public. Be sure to visit often, as new sites are being added every month -- with recent additions of Burhan Dogançay, Paul Jenkins and Andrea Zittel.