Ask the Reference Desk: Are there agreed “best practices” for building a catalogue raisonné?


At the CRSA’s recent Business Meeting at CAA, one member mentioned how difficult she was finding it to establish “best practices” for beginning and building a catalogue raisonné.  Other members agreed.  From organizational questions such as, is an editorial or advisory board necessary, to practical questions such as, how much information should be included in the published provenance – it seems there is no one place to find all the answers.

This is, in fact, broadly the case.  And for a good reason:  since every project is different (and every artist presents different challenges), it is hard if not impossible to establish what might work best for everyone.  However, this is not to say that more could not be done to help answer some of the questions we all seem to come across in our work.

CRSA is hoping to take on this unique challenge in 2014.  By finding more opportunities for CR projects (both in progress and complete) to compare procedures and standards, we may better help those just getting started.  Look for news on upcoming events and surveys.

In the meantime, members recommend reviewing published catalogues raisonnés – introductory sections often provide a “guide to entries” that explains an author’s research methodology.  And the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) is generous to provide the proceeding of their 2001 conference “Catalogues Raisonnés and the Authentication Process: Where the Ivory Tower Meets the Marketplace,” a document that many projects have found to be a valuable resource.  But, overall, we find time and time again that the best and fastest resource is our community of CR scholars.  Help us all connect by posting questions to the Listserv, joining CRSA events to network with the community, and keep checking the Forum for Project Profiles and more Reference Desk questions.