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Books & Magazines November, 18 2008

The Auction Catalog as Artwork

Some prized research materials locked away in my library include a few rather odd auction catalogs. Amidst a good number of years of Christies, Cowens, Northeast and Sotheby’s Americana listings is a single catalog for a sale of rare European football shirts. With few books on the subject, this stands in, and does a bloody good job.

So, while the notion of auction catalog as collectible is well established, the idea of auction catalog as work of art still requires some thought. Artforum reports that Phillips de Pury will be offering future contemporary catalogs as signed editions. Instant works of art with original artwork and signed numbering. The argument toward this publication deriving from the necessity of an income boost against the lowering auction figures rings true. Why not push profit?

If successful, one might imagine that the greatest achievement of the program is to kick start interest in auction house catalogs outside the traditional collectors circle. Limited as they are in normal circumstances, tagging them as such might just do the trick. Despite the potential, it will still be interesting to see if other houses follow suit. Phillips, after all, already does the most to attract the interest of the everyday punter.

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