Artistate Q & A

The Catalogue Raisonné

A catalogue raisonné is a publication documenting an artist’s works and creative career which is widely recognised as the most authoritative and reliable source of information on an artist’s oeuvre.

1. What are the benefits of having a catalogue raisonné?

A catalogue raisonné asserts and preserves the artist’s oeuvre by documenting it. If it is appropriately drafted and compiled, it can become the foremost source of information on an artist’s oeuvre for dealers, curators, scholars and anyone who has an interest in the artist. This will inform and nurture interest in the artist and sustain the commercial desirability of their work by reducing authenticity-related risks. The catalogue raisonné can become an effective authentication tool after the artist’s death. In cases where the authenticity or date of a work is uncertain or unknown, the catalogue raisonné can serve to contextualise the work chronologically and stylistically and attribute the work to the artist. Conversely, the catalogue raisonné can serve to prevent the exploitation of the artist’s name by discrediting forgeries.

2. How can I create a catalogue raisonné?

A catalogue raisonné is a project typically undertaken by a team of experts, ideally overseen by artists themselves for a period during their lifetime. A catalogue raisonné project can be complex and requires an important investment of time, money and expertise. It is therefore advisable to seek the guidance and assistance of experts, for example through organisations such as the International Catalogue Raisonné Association (ICRA) or the Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association.

It must first be decided whether the catalogue will be comprehensive and cover the whole of the artist’s oeuvre (in which case it may be divided into volumes) or whether it will focus on a particular medium or time period. The most frequent organising principle is chronological, however the model can be elaborated. The finest catalogue raisonnés are rich in content. In addition to detailed entries on each work specifying its media, dimensions, provenance and exhibition history, they may include a bibliography, a listing of works in public collections, references to useful archives, and a chronology of the artist’s life.

By Mona Yapova, Constantine Cannon LLP

The law varies from country to country.  In this section of the website, we describe the law as it applies in England and Wales.  Whilst similar principles apply in other European countries, and to a lesser extent, in the USA, please do not assume that the law is the same.  For example, artists have stronger moral rights in countries applying the Napoleonic codes than in England and Wales. The information provided on this page is general and may not apply in a specific situation. In doubt, please seek legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. The authors accept no responsibility for the content of this page.