Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Future of Exhibition Catalogs?



An assortment of catalogs from Art Quilt compeitions.



A couple weeks ago I wrote a piece about criteria you might consider when entering juried exhibitions. In the list of considerations I included whether or not the sponsors publish a catalog.

When I began entering art quilt shows I was totally surprised by how many shows printed catalogs. I felt and do feel this is an important element but as our world continues to move toward doing everything digitally I've been thinking this may quickly become a perk of the past.

During the last year I was in one show which in previous years had published a catalog but this year they opted to make a CD instead. I am also aware of some sponsors setting up catalogs online. If you want a catalog you pay and print directly from the online service. I have not done this myself but I have to say this is preferable to no publication.

It's wonderful to be able to go back a few years and look at what work and which artists were in a specific exhibition. I'm thinking now that an additional option or feature could be a permanent online archive of work from shows. Not just juried shows but any show that wanted to participate. This could be done by individual museums, galleries etc. or there might be some organization that wanted to become the "national archive" of art quilt shows and competitions. I know there are organizations which are collecting images of work as a general archive of what is being done with art quilts but this would be a different angle. There could even be a option where you could select and print a catalog from this kind of archive. This could possibily be another avenue for museums or organization to generate income.

OK entreperneurs! What do you think?


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19 comments:

  1. Yes Terry, to the availability of catalogues online, and for pay-to-print for hardcopies. As director of the Harley Gallery at USC Upstate, I recently completed a collaboration with the Spartanburg Art Museum that exhibited a large group of photographs by Andy Warhol that belong to the University. We produced a catalogue to accompany the exhibit and were fortunate to receive a grant that allowed us to print and distribute hard copies free of charge to visitors. In conjunction with the exhibit we maintained a web page of exhibition details and I linked a PDF copy of the full catalogue to the page making it available to anyone and everyone. It was amazing how many people accessed the online version and even responded in emails at how they appreciated our sharing it electronically. The web page will stay online and we will continue to attract interested viewers though the exhibit has long passed.

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  2. Congratulations on another great project! This is exactly what I had in mind. It truly makes the work accessable for everyone for, as you said, years to come. You folks are leading the pack!

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  3. I like the pay-to-print idea, although the quality of the printed catalogs is hard to top. But then, they're usually pretty expensive. I was in a show earlier this year that opted for a CD, and I threw mine away when I downsized, knowing I'd never look at it. I will probably always prefer printed material over digital-only. I think it's an age thing -- like yearly datebooks you can write in instead of keep on the computer!

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  4. I'm with you in your feelings about printed material but I just see where things are headed. I do feel the idea of shows keeping digital archives could be pretty wonderful however. Thank you Connie for your thoughts.

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  5. Good topic, Terry. You can't beat having the actual printed catalog to store on your shelves and browse through some time in the future - especially when moving or settling into a new studio. (That's the only time I really study what I have.) Personally, I think CDs are on their way out. They're just not that user friendly or appealing. I think both a printed catalog (either pay to print or regular print) along with an online archive is the way to go. I co-organized a show in 1996 or 1997 at the Somerville Museum (Mass.) and it's still online and going strong.

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  6. Digital catalogs are a waste as far as I am concerned. I want to sit down and browse and spread 2 or 3 catalogs out and flip through them at one time to compare the work of artists from one yr to the next if they have been in more than one show. I love the small format of the European Art Quilt catalogs and the Trienniale catalogs. I have CD catalogs and have never once looked at them.

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  7. Hi Nancy and Rayna! Thank you for your thoughts. I agree with both of you. I prefer something printed and don't care for CDs. I do love the idea of online archives and the ability to print from them and it is exciting to hear about the Somerville Museum project. I'm going to check that out.

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  8. I personally rarely both to look at the CDs for some reason.
    I love a printed catalog. The color is probably the closest because you can use a higher dpi for print work and the color is CMYK rather than the RGB of your monitor that no one ever calibrates for color. Printing does have it problems, the printing of green shades is very tricky and if you have a green image on the same plate as a red image you are going to have problems with the green losing out.
    My vote is 1. see the show in person. 2. buy the catalog, 3. go online 4. save the planet from another plastic CD
    I never really understood art quilts until I saw QN in person.

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  9. Thank you Mary Ann! Another vote for a paper catalog. I'm with you but I still feel they will become a more rare "bird" than in past years. Your observation about seeing the work is spot on!

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  10. It would be nice to get a printed copy if you couldn't get to the show. I have saved many of these and love to sit and look at them. I have thought about "thinning out the herd"...but not those. After taking picture upon picture at a show, I know that the pros can do a better job than I ever will. I also would love to spent the time at a show looking instead of trying to focus and wait for the flow of the crowds to get out of the way.

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  11. Hi Pat! Thank you for the comment and your interest. Yes, show opening are never the time to really "see" a show so catalogs are very important. I think the perfect solution would be to have a printed catalog AND a digital archive!

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  12. One of my favorite activities is to occasionally go to bed early and lie there reading the old catalogs from Quilt National or Visions. I mean really old, the early 90s. It's so instructive to see which people are still working and how their styles have changed, and revisit old favorites who are no longer on the quilt scene. I could probably do this on the computer but then I wouldn't have my marginal notes (such as "it's really a lot more blue than this photo shows" or "hand stitching around the edge").

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  13. Hi Kathy, I'm totally with you in regards to a Real catalog. I feel the same way about Real books as opposed to digital books but I think this is an issue that museums and galleries and exhibitions are and will be looking at in order to cut costs. Thanks for your comment!

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  14. I have a strong preference for a printed catalog. Like Kathy, I like to browse copies at odd times and since I have a desktop, a CD would limit my ability to do so. In addition, I love to lay catalogs side by side and look at how artists' work has evolved. That's not something I can easily do with a CD.

    I'm also an advocate for an on-line archive. I recently was connected to a collector who saw my work in an archive. Can't beat that.

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  15. Thank you Vivien! It's great to hear about your experience with a collector who found you through an online archive. I don't think anyone likes Cd's.

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  16. Consider sending your post and the comments to venues who have created a catalog CD's. Give them feedback. They won't do better until they know better. At the very least they'll not throw good money after bad. Gentle education is always a good approach. Many of the people who fund show are often donors or committees who are not familiar with outcomes.

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  17. Thank you Christine for this suggestion. I think this is in general a good suggestion. I did not receive a single response from artists longing for CD's. The physical reality of a catalog in Book form is simpily the most desirable form of documention.

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  18. Great topic, as usual! I love a printed catalog, too, especially since I do research, and work better when I have something in my hand to look at. That said, my curator hat on, a printed catalog well done is very expensive : ( At the AQM show this past year, we created a CD (which many of you don't like), and had paid someone to convert it to an uploadable, POD format, but the person never completed the work, so we are stuck. It's hard as a curator: on a very limited budget, I have to know the art, the logistics of running an exhibition, AND how to do all the graphic work? Hmmm...

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  19. Hey Gayle! Thank you for your expert imput. Your thoughts and comments are at the heart of this issue. Everyone loves the printed catalogs but there , as you stated, expenses and expertise to consider. The whole issue of having to wear yeat another hat is one of dark sides of the digital world. When I left the work-a-day world, one of my happiest thoughts was that I wouldn't have to keep learning a new program every other month. WRONG!!! Now I have to learn them at home just to continue to be able to do the things I want to do. Hopefully someone will step forward and assist you in completing your catalog for POD. That is a sad tale.
    Happy New Year and thank you! xo, Terry

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