Hey Creative Friend,
Today, let’s chat about the Artist Catalog. Recently, an artist friend of mine put together an impressive exhibition of her lifelong artist career. During the planning stages of her solo show, she contacted me for help with certain things. One of them was how to create an artist catalog for her show.
Today, I’ll like to extend that help to you. So that you can figure out how to create an artist catalog for your next solo show or even a group exhibit.
Why You Need an Artist Catalog
First, let’s start with why you need an artist catalog. Exhibitions are a wonderful way to showcase your work and invite people into your creative space. It gives them a window into your thoughts and ideas and an opportunity to see your work as a body. However, exhibitions run for specific lengths of time and they’re over. Done. No more to be seen.
This is where an artist catalog comes in. It serves as a documentation of the exhibition, it provides a permanence that a show can’t provide. And it is a great marketing tool to give to collectors and admirers of your work. I created an artist catalog for my solo show – Drawn with Threads and that catalog still lives on. New people are discovering me through that catalog.
A Print Catalog or a Digital Catalog
In this digital age, there are many electronic formats in which you could create an artist catalog or a documentation of your solo show, including creating a website for it with images, audio recordings, and videos. I encourage you to explore those options as well because of the easy access those formats provide to your viewing public.
Having said that, there’s something about seeing art in print, holding a book in your hands or displaying it on your coffee table that is totally different from consuming that same kind of information on an electronic device. For that reason, don’t miss out on an opportunity to create a print copy of your artist catalog.
What Goes in Your Artist Catalog?
Just as you have to curate your solo show, you’ll also have to curate your artist catalog. Creating a catalog requires some planning. First, what’s the theme you want the catalog to be about? Focus on that when you’re planning your catalog. Choose a piece of art that encompasses this theme or focus that you want to portray. You will use this art piece for your cover/ Title page. Speaking about title page, you need to come up with a good title that encompasses your theme. I usually like a short title that’s easy to remember and a subtitle for further description. The Title is usually the same as the exhibition title.
Next, let’s discuss essays.
It’s a good thing to include essays in your art catalog. Essays, lend a third person’s perspective to your artwork. Here’s how one essay writer – Maria Porges- describes essays:
“Catalogue essays are not about making something up. They are about finding the clearest way to describe and explain. The catalogue writer opens a door, makes the viewer’s experience of the work more meaningful and satisfying, and puts the work in a context that helps it to be understood and appreciated.”Maria Porges
If you’re asking someone to write an essay for your catalog, it’s better to get someone who can do a good job, is interested in seeing you succeed, rather than a big name who wouldn’t take the time to do a half decent job. Curators, art critics, fellow artists are all good choices to write essays about your work for your catalog.
Now, you’ll have to put some information about yourself and your art career in your catalog. An artist statement and a resume will be able to take care of that informational content in your catalog. You’ll also have to have information next to the images of each piece in the catalog. Title, medium, dimension, year created.
Talking about images, the bulk of your artist catalog will be filled with images of your work. Make sure to use clear and crisp high resolution photos for your catalog. There’s no point in going to all these lengths to produce a catalog with terrible images. Either have a professional photographer take the photos or if you’re good at photographing your artwork, then do that. Be sure to check with the printer to know what the smallest size of your images should be for optimum results. This way you can relay that information to your photographer or if you’re doing it yourself, you’ll be well-informed.
Putting it all together
Finally, you’ll want to have an acknowledgement page, where you show your gratitude to your supporters and all those who’ve helped your art journey in some meaningful way. Then summarize all the content in your catalog, in a table of contents page that appears at the beginning of the catalog.
Before you deliver your catalog for printing, have someone proof read it. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve had catalogs proof-read by multiple people and yet the final output still had typos in them. Don’t print without someone else proof reading first. NEVER!
There are many formats in which to create an artist catalog. Take a look at a few and decide which format you like best.
When it comes to printing, you have a number of options. You could use one of the many print-on-demand options, where they print the exact number of copies you need at a particular time. The advantage of this is, you don’t need to store unsold book copies. Obviously, the other option is to have the printers print out advanced copies. Then, you keep an inventory of your books with you for future sales or distribution.
It takes work to put a catalog together. As with everything concerning your solo show, planning makes a lot of difference. My recommendation is that, don’t try to do everything by yourself. Get help and delegate some of the tasks. To learn more about putting together a great solo show, read my series on Behind The Scenes of a Solo Show. Scroll to the bottom of that page to find the rest of the articles in that series.
That’s it my friend.
Comment, ask questions, and let’s chat below.
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Also published on Medium.