Exhibition catalogue


There are two types of exhibition catalogue (or exhibition catalog): a printed list of exhibits at an
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exhibition; and a directory of exhibitors at a
trade fair A trade fair (trade show, trade exhibition, or trade exposition) is an exhibition organized so that companies A company, abbreviated as co., is a legal entity In law, a legal person is any person A person (plural people or persons) i ...

trade fair
or business-to-business event.

Art or museum exhibition catalogues

Catalogues for art or museum exhibitions may range in scale from a single printed sheet to a lavish
hardcover A hardcover, hard cover, or hardback (also known as hardbound, and sometimes as case-bound) book is one bookbinding, bound with rigid protective covers (typically of binder's board or heavy paperboard covered with buckram or other cloth, heavy pa ...
coffee table book A coffee table book, also known as a cocktail table book, is an oversized, usually hard-covered book whose purpose is for display on a table Table may refer to: * Table (information) A table is an arrangement of data Data are units of ...
". The advent of cheap colour-
printing Printing is a process for mass reproducing text and images An Synthetic aperture radar, SAR radar imaging, radar image acquired by the SIR-C/X-SAR radar on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour shows the Teide volcano. The city of Santa Cru ...

in the 1960s transformed what had usually been simple "handlists" with several works to each page into large scale "descriptive catalogues" that are intended as both contributions to scholarship and books likely to appeal to many general readers. The catalogues for exhibitions held at a museum are now often far more detailed than the catalogues of their permanent collections. In the early 21st century, exhibitions that gather items from other institutions (museums, galleries, libraries, etc.) and that are elaborately publicized very often have catalogues in the form of substantial books.

Format of art catalogues

Book-sized exhibition catalogues too in the West typically have a colour photograph of every item on display, and also of other relevant works not in the exhibition (these usually smaller and often in black and white). There will be a short formal catalogue description of each item, and usually interpretative text often amounting to one or more pages. The resulting book will have at least one introductory essay, often several, footnotes,
bibliography Bibliography (from and ), as a discipline, is traditionally the academic study of book A book is a medium for recording information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts, stati ...
and other
critical apparatus A critical apparatus ( la, apparatus criticus) in textual criticism Textual criticism is a branch of , , and of that is concerned with the identification of textual variants, or different versions, of either or of printed books. Such texts ma ...
. It is usually only in the language of the location, although if the exhibition is travelling internationally, local translated editions will be produced for each location. The book may be published by the institution that hosts the exhibition (or one of these institutions), but is distributed by and often co-published with a larger publisher. It will not dwell on the fact that it is the catalogue of a particular exhibition, and often will not contain a plan of the exhibition. Visitors to the exhibition will anyway know this, and the intention - often successful - is to create a book which has a permanent usefulness. Nearly all are produced in
paperback A paperback, also known as a softcover or softback, is a type of book A book is a medium for recording information Information is processed, organised and structured data. It provides context for data and enables decision making p ...
; a hardback edition is a sign of serious intentions. Most major catalogues are sold in at least some bookshops, and are available for order more widely through the booktrade. Many receive specific sponsorship to finance them, and usually a number of authors contribute. In recent decades, exhibition catalogues have grown to prodigious sizes and may be the most comprehensive sources for even rather large subject areas. Probably the largest to be produced were in the 1970s in a competitive spree by Italian provinces and German
to promote the significance of their region by mounting huge exhibitions on the period when its cultural production was at its peak. A typical example is the three-volume ''Die ''Parler'' und der schöne Stil 1350-1400. Europäische Kunst unter den Luxemburgern'' from
Cologne Cologne ( ; german: Köln ; ksh, Kölle ) is the largest city of Germany, Germany's most populous States of Germany, state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and the List of cities in Germany by population, fourth-most populous city and one of t ...

of 1978, with a further two volumes published in 1980 on a colloquium held in conjunction with the exhibition. The three volumes covering the exhibition proper amount to over a thousand pages and it would have been unfeasible to have taken them into the exhibition itself. Another example is ''The History of Japanese Photography,'' 432 pages long and with over four hundred plates. This trend was led in Britain by the
Royal Academy of Arts The Royal Academy of Arts (RA) is an art institution based in Burlington House Burlington House is a building on Piccadilly in Mayfair, London. It was originally a private Palladian architecture, Palladian mansion owned by the Earl of B ...

Royal Academy of Arts
and in the USA by the
Metropolitan Museum of Art The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City, colloquially "the Met", is the largest art museum in the Western Hemisphere. Its permanent collection contains over two million works, divided among 17 curatorial departments. The main building ...

Metropolitan Museum of Art
in New York and the
National Gallery of Art The National Gallery of Art, and its attached Sculpture Garden, is a national art museum in Washington, D.C., United States, located on the National Mall, between 3rd and 9th Streets, at Constitution Avenue NW. Open to the public and free of char ...

National Gallery of Art
in Washington.

Japanese catalogues

Japanese exhibition catalogues often provide captions, a certain amount of text, or both in a second language (usually English), and occasionally also a smaller amount in a third language. This is not always so: the large catalogue (over 360 pages) for a major exhibition of the wood-block artist
Yasunori Taninaka Yasunori is a masculine Japanese given name. Notable people with the name include: *, anime sound director *, producer of the Onegai anime *, better known as Kenzō Kotani (小谷 憲三), a swordmaker *, Japanese voice actor *, Japanese voice acto ...
is in Japanese alone. Meanwhile, ''Works by 25 Photographers in their 20s'' is completely bilingual, Japanese and English. The great majority of Japanese exhibition catalogues are only available directly from the galleries or museums that host or hosted the exhibitions. These catalogues are acquired and shelved by libraries together with other books and are available on the used book market, but lack
ISBN #REDIRECT International Standard Book Number The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book A book is a medium for recording information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data ...

s. However, exceptions do exist: the catalogue of an exhibition of the photographs of
Nakaji Yasui (December 15, 1903 - March 15, 1942) was one of the most prominent photographers in the first half of the 20th century in Japan. Life Yasui was born in Osaka and became a member of the Naniwa Photography Club (, ''Naniwa Shashin Kurabu'') in 1920 ...
was produced via an independent publisher and distributed as a regular book.

Catalogues for trade fairs

Exhibition catalogues are used at commercial exhibitions and trade fairs to profile all the exhibitors at the event. They serve not only as a guide for visitors on the day, but also as an industry directory used afterwards by visitors (and others) to find suppliers and business partners. Many exhibition catalogues are used by market researchers because they contain good quality information about companies that are active in a particular market place. A typical exhibition catalogue contains the following: * Introduction and welcome message from the event organiser * Floor plan showing the location of each exhibition stand * Summary alphabetical list of exhibitors * Exhibitor profiles (normally a textual description of each exhibitor plus their contact details) * A ‘buyer’s guide’ where exhibitors are listed under relevant product or service categories * Details of seminars or conference sessions running alongside the exhibition * Advertisements promoting the exhibitors The format of exhibition catalogues for trade fairs can range from A5-sized ‘saddle-stitched’ publications with descriptions of as few as 30-40 exhibitors, to much larger perfect-bound ‘stretched A5’ or A4-sized directories containing profiles on thousands of companies exhibiting at major international trade events such as The
London Book Fair The London Book Fair (LBF) is a large book-publishing trade fair held annually, usually in April, in London, England. LBF is a global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and dig ...
, SIAL (the Paris-based food exhibition), and
Nuremberg International Toy Fair The Nuremberg International Toy Fair (German language, German: ''Spielwarenmesse'') held annually since 1949, is the largest international trade fair for toys and games. Only trade visitors associated with the toy business, journalists and invite ...
(Spielwarenmesse). The exhibition organiser is ultimately responsible for publishing the catalogue for their own event. However, many organisers outsource the design, production and advertising sales for these publications to specialist exhibition catalogue contract publishers operating within the exhibitions industry. Other common terms to describe the exhibition catalogue at a trade fair include 'event guide', 'show guide', 'show catalogue', 'exhibition directory', 'fair guide' or 'exhibition guide'. Often exhibition organisers will add the word 'official' to the front of the name of the publication (e.g. 'Official exhibition catalogue') to distinguish their publication from unofficial exhibition catalogues for their event produced by trade magazine publishers.

Art catalogues referred to

*''The History of Japanese Photography,'' ed.
Anne Wilkes Tucker Anne Wilkes Tucker was an American museum curator of photographic works. She retired in June 2015. Life and work Tucker was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She received a B.A. in Art History from Randolph College, Randolph Macon Woman's College i ...
, ''et al.'' New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. . Exhibition held at the
Museum of Fine ArtsMuseum of Fine Arts (French: ''Musée des Beaux-Arts''; German: ''Museum der bildenden Künste'') may refer to: Argentina * Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Buenos Aires), Buenos Aires Austria * Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna Belgium * Roy ...
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) and the
Cleveland Cleveland ( ), officially the City of Cleveland, is a city in the U.S. The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country primarily located in North America North ...
Museum of Art
Museum of Art
, 2003. *''Nakaji Yasui: Photographer 1903–1942'' / ''Yasui Nakaji shashinshū'' (安井仲治写真集). Tokyo: Kyodo News, 2004. . Exhibition held at the
Nagoya City Art Museum The is located in the city of Nagoya in central Japan. The museum building itself was constructed by Kisho Kurokawa, one of the leading Japanese architects, from 1983–1987. Works by the surrealist Kansuke Yamamoto (artist), Kansuke Yamamoto, Se ...
and Shoto Museum of Art (Shibuya, Tokyo, Shibuya), 2004–5. Text in both Japanese and English. *''Die ''Parler'' und der schöne Stil 1350-1400. Europäische Kunst unter den Luxemburgern,'' ed. Anton Legner. 3 + 2 vols. Cologne: Schnütgen-Museum, 1978 & 1980. *''Taninaka Yasunori no yume: Shinema to kafe to kaiki no maboroshi'' (谷中安規の夢:シネマとカフェと怪奇のまぼろし, The dreams of Yasunori Taninaka: Apparitions of the cinema, cafes and mysteries). Published by the exhibitors, 2003. Exhibition held at the Shoto Museum of Art, Suzaka Hanga Museum (Suzaka, Nagano, Suzaka) and Utsunomiya Museum of Art (Utsunomiya, Tochigi, Utsunomiya), 2003–2004. Text in Japanese only. *''Works by 25 Photographers in their 20s'' / ''25nin no 20dai no shashin'' (25人の20代の写真). Published by the exhibitor, 1995. Exhibition held at Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts (Kiyosato, Yamanashi, Kiyosato), 1995. Text in Japanese and English.

External links

Exhibition catalogues
website of the Association of Art Editors * Exhibition catalogues, website o
Museum Bookstore

What makes a great exhibition catalogue
{{Authority control Exhibitions Books by type Museology Museum books