Project Profile: Henri Michaux Catalogue Raisonné

essay on henri michaux CR

Artist: Henri Michaux (1899 – 1994)
Scope: Comprehensive
Years Covered: 1925 -1984
Database: custom-designed software
Print or Digital: digital
Schedule: Research has been on going since 2001. A publication has not yet been set.
Key Staff: Micheline Phankim, Rainer M. Mason, Franck Leibovici

CRSA:  This project will be the first catalogue raisonné on Henri Michaux. What are some of the project’s primary resources?
HMCR: We used the studio collection as a basis, then, the photos archives of the previous galleries, like the Point Cardinal Gallery, in Paris.

CRSA:  What specific challenges do you face in researching Michaux?
HMCR: Michaux did not provide any dates, and he did not give titles to his paintings and drawings. So finding an accurate date is here a strong issue.  We can not rely on dates published in museum catalogues, because depending on the publication, the same painting may get different dates, and because these dates were given by either the art dealer or by a collector not paying much attention to this issue. Also, generic categories are not so much of a help: applying the term “Indian ink” to more than 500 works does not allow us to discriminate and go through the works. Nor the dimensions, as the size of the paper is usually standard. This is why we needed to create a software which would take into account the properties of Michaux works. For instance, tools as queries by similarities, or tagging or family resemblances will be of a great help for future investigations. Additionally, most of the works between 1925 and the 50’s are largely un-documented. We have lists of galleries or museums exhibitions, which happened during that time, but with with very few images or descriptions of the works which were exhibited.

CRSA:  How do you think this research will help change our understanding of Michaux’s work?
HMCR: The catalogue raisonné allows us to put works next to each other and set up series and family resemblances, which is very helpful to date works which have been un-dated for years.

CRSA:  Are there plans for additional content, such as essays or appendices?
HMCR: Yes, an essay (just released) takes care of the epistemological and methodological issues of the Michaux catalogue raisonné. It has been published first in France as an autonomous book, but will be linked as an ebook to the catalogue raisonné itself: Franck Leibovici, Henri Michaux: Voir (une enquête), Paris : 2014, PUPS. ISBN : 978-2-84050-930-1

CRSA:  Once the digital publication is finalized, will you consider adapting a print version?
HMCR: The digital edition will be the main one. It is today the most relevant medium to conduct a research. A print version would be then a selection among the works, but it would not make sense to turn it into a fac simile of the the electronic edition. We would lose all the technical advantages of digital organisations (facets, tags, and so on).

For more information, please visit: www.henrimichaux.org
Or contact: archivesmichaux@gmail.com

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