Home Magazine How is an art archive born?

Normally, this happens to those interested in art - especially contemporary art - they often find bad news in magazines or on the web about the disappearance of artists. Of course, there are various reasons, but what happens after is our main topic today...

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1. How is an art archive born?

So, the first protagonists are the heirs that, besides being very (very) lucky, may decide to sell everything through art auctions/galleries with lowers prices, often going up against long legal disputes; otherwise, they can be more farsighted and collect all the heritage in order to make loans and donations to the institutions, and also develop an accurate strategy to relaunch an artist's importance in the art system. It's exactly in this second case that an Artist Archive is born. 

2. Which kind of documentations goes into official art archives? 

The Artist Archive consists of a modern database of artworks, where one can easily find all the information about the artist and their artworks. For the former, it's really important to have a consolidated biography with basic information about the artist's life, matched with more detailed notices: where they are born; when they studied and with whom (maybe who their fellow students and professors were); where they lived; their official relations (family); who their friends or sentimental connections were; Maecenas; gallerists; collectors; as well, for the exhibitions, that could vary from locations and years; awards; post correspondences; press reviews (from the past and present); and finally, for the very picky ones, medical information can be very useful as well.   

In regards to the artworks, especially for the creation of what is called a "catalogue raisonnè", the archive must be in possession of high quality images, artworks' technical descriptions, and most of all the life story of each single work: where it is located (in the archive or other places), how many sell steps it has undergone, who the past and current owners are, documents about possible restorations, the current insurance value and consequently estimated market value, and to be sure on the authenticity side maybe some preliminary studies. Thanks to all these documents, the archive is legitimate and can issue an authentic certificate.  

3. What can be an archive? 

The legal status of each artwork archive is discretionary. There are archives born as Foundations, Associations, Committees, or private archive sometimes with a specific legal form. 

4. Why is an artist archive important? 

Several Archives today become places of study and memory - the memory of the individual but at also of the community. Indeed, thanks to this very detailed documentation and what we can call "archival arts", art curators and critics could organize exhibitions and continue to analyze an artist's work, and even create interesting associations with other artists or genres. 

Everything that can be collected, preserved and catalogued becomes an object of study for the reconstruction of a story, a life and an era.

Cover image: Deposito d'Arte Italiana Presente, Artissima 2017, curated by Ilaria Bonacossa and Vittoria Martini.


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