Catalogue (E-)Raisonné?

What is a catalogue raisonné?

A catalogue raisonné is a “comprehensive, annotated listing of all the known works of an artist either in a particular medium or all media” (NYPL).  These may include information such as: title/title variations, dimension/size, dates, medium, current location/owner at time of publication, provenance, exhibition history, condition of the work, literatures that discuss the work, full descriptions, lost destroyed and fakes, and catalog number.


An example of what a catalogue raisonné might contain, taken from ‘William Nicholson: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings’ [compliments of]

Iain Baxter&’s Participatory Catalogue Raisonné:

“Plug in & see what’s growing & evolving. Join in & participate. Do your own research for articles, reviews, or your Master’s & PhDs. Ask questions. Plan & produce an exhibition, a book or monograph, a movie or video.”


These words stem Canadian conceptual artist, Iain Baxter& regarding his current project which seeks to “expand and transform the catalogue raisonné format into a collaborative scholarly communications and learning zone” (Baxter&/Artist’s Message). What’s so fascinating about this project is that it challenges linearity and breaks the traditional structures of a traditional catalogue raisonné (printed format). It does so by adding content in direct response to the “evolving creative research/teaching needs of a diverse constituency of artists, scholars and students” – communities that research this artist and/or the historical transformation of catalogues raisonnés, collections, and collecting behaviours.

The IAINBAXTER&raisonnE  (as the project is called) welcomes user-generated descriptors of images in the collection as well as user-generated annotations. Other scholarly and creative contributions and interventions are also welcome, including interviews, essays and reflections. It is a “multi-lingual, artist-researcher collaboration which aims to generate reusable virtual spaces in support of evolving research projects and creative communication through new approaches to data curation and social productions such as blogging. The physical archive is thereby dematerialized and transformed into a ‘social event.'”(Baxter&/About).

To show you a visual comparison of what a traditional catalogue raisonné might appear to be versus Baxter&’s, I’ve captured an image of a raisonné for the artist Paul Klee with a screenshot of the E-raisonné  for Iain’s work (below):

Baxter& and participatory culture:

I was fascinated to come across this example of a catalogue raisonné because  it made me think about the concept of “participatory culture” we discussed in class. Online presence and e-research also offers ‘affordances’ which make accessibility to those interested in compiling this raisonné easier. While I  believe this breaks down a lot of hierarchical barriers the art world tends to have, I don’t think it’s valid to say this is a “new” phenomenon because of the internet or social media. (i.e., Adam Lauder (2011) and Baxter& himself acknowledges that this open-ended and critical approach to the raisonné is adopted by partly by other examples of premodern catalogs from the 18th-century).  But I really think this is an interesting example of an E-project that is participatory in nature, involving others in the information lifecycle of creation, organization, sharing, finding and use of a catalogue raisonné.




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