Impressionist Archives to Go Online

artnet news is reporting the Wildenstein Platter Institute will soon publish 100 years worth of artist and gallery archives from the Impressionist period.  When published they will be free to the public and contain sales catalogs, artist correspondence and digitized catalogues raisonnés.

Technology and the internet can be a wonderful thing.

artnet news reports
Art historians and dealers researching works of art will soon have a new trove of materials to work with, courtesy of the Wildenstein Platter Institute (WPI).

A century’s worth of documentation from WPI—featuring materials like stock books from art galleries, artists’ correspondence, and annotated sale catalogues—will be digitized to develop online catalogues raisonnés (a comprehensive list of an artist’s known works) for artists including Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, and Claude Monet. These documents and publications will eventually be accessible free of charge. While most of these artists have catalogues in print, the digital versions will reflect new scholarship and can be updated on an ongoing basis.

“The exciting thing about the archive is that there are materials here that were long thought to have been destroyed, and others that have not been available to the public at large, so this is an important development for art historians, dealers, and provenance researchers,” Elizabeth Gorayeb, WPI’s executive director, told artnet News.

In 2016, art dealer Guy Wildenstein’s eponymous institute joined forces with German collector and technology entrepreneur Hasso Plattner to establish WPI. The newly formed institute published a five-volume catalogue raisonné of the work of Jasper Johns earlier this year, but its specific plans for online publishing have not been made public until now.

Based in New York, Gorayeb is currently in Paris setting up a WPI office—which will house the archival materials—and beginning to develop a database.

Among the records, she said, are the archives of legendary Paris art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who dealt in the work of artists including Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne. Also included are the files of art historian Henri Certigny, who conducted extensive research on the artist Henri Rousseau. The files will vastly expand what are now very limited resources for Rousseau researchers or dealers, she said. The shortage of historical documents on Rousseau has hobbled not only research on the artist but also the development of his market.

While it’s hard to promise a timeline so early in the project, Gorayeb said, a listing of materials in the WPI archive will be published by the end of 2018. The full archives will be published online over the coming years.

In the meantime, for fees ranging from $500 to $2,000, art historians and dealers can gain early access to information from WPI’s files and find out if an artwork will be included in a particular catalogue raisonné. “So, for example, for an auction house specialist researching a work that may soon go to market, that will be a game changer,” said Gorayeb.

(After the archives are made public, WPI will charge only to issue a statement that confirms a particular work is the same as that published in the catalogue.)

In Gorayeb’s view, a non-profit is the best entity to publish catalogues raisonnés because the WPI has no financial stake in the market for any artist. “We’re not betting on any particular horse,” she said, “so we have a degree of autonomy that dealers don’t have.”

Online catalogues raisonnés have become increasingly popular in recent years as scholarship moves online. The set-up allows for updates to be made quickly, which is particularly useful as collectors become more litigious over matters of authentication. Other publishers of online catalogues include Artifex Press, which offers catalogues for artists including Chuck Close and Agnes Martin.

As for WPI’s archive, Gorayeb believes it has only just begun to deliver rewards. “As we go through the boxes,” she predicted, “there will be more great finds.”
Source: artnet news 

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