Reviewed June 2018
Katharine Rovanpera, Assistant Archivist
The Museum of Modern Art
The Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí’s Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Salvador Dalí is a convenient, free, and comprehensive digital resource on Salvador Dalí. Drawing heavily on the Fundació’s own documentary archive, material from the archives of The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and numerous other institutions, collectors, and experts, the catalogue is intended to provide the most authoritative record of Dalí’s artistic output.
The Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Salvador Dalí is easy to locate and intuitive to navigate. The catalogue is quickly discovered via Google search, and is prominently displayed on the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí homepage. The catalogue does not have its own website, which may lead users to inadvertently navigate away from it, but most other pages on the Fundació site include a link back to the catalogue. Once on the catalogue page, there are several ways to search or browse: the user may search for a specific work, date, or collection using keyword search, browse works chronologically within five subsections divided by artistic period, or browse by collection using the catalogue’s index of collections. The catalogue is not, however, indexed or searchable by subject. Still, the variety of search functions allows the user to find and identify works even with limited information, and to view artworks in relation to other works by Dalí of the same period or in the same institutional context. This facility of use makes the catalogue accessible to scholarly researchers, curators, art dealers, and casual Dalí enthusiasts alike, and undoubtedly eases the reference burden on the Fundació’s physical archives. Such straightforward navigation makes this resource more approachable than more technologically sophisticated digital catalogues raisonnés, many of which are only available with a paid subscription, as is the the case for the catalogues of Chuck Close, Agnes Martin, and others produced by Artifex Press, a digital publisher which focuses solely on catalogues raisonnés.
The breadth of content on the Dalí catalogue is as thorough as a researcher would expect from any catalogue raisonné, print or digital. Each entry contains all technical information available about the work, information on provenance, exhibition history, and a detailed bibliography. Where applicable, the Fundació has also included a “Remarks” tab to explain the rationale in cataloguing works that presented challenges or nuances in identification. Wherever possible, a color image of the work is included in the catalogue entry. Due to the limitations of the project – the majority of works are held in collections across the world, rather than in the Fundació collection, unlike MoMA’s Louise Bourgeois: The Complete Prints and Books, where cataloguers had access to the majority of the original prints and were able to photograph them – the color images are of sufficient web quality and can be enlarged, but are not high-resolution. Additionally, each catalogue entry includes clear language about copyright, with a link to the VEGAP (Visual Entidad de Gestión de Artistas Plásticos) website, the organization responsible for handling reproduction rights for Dalí’s works. The site also includes a description of the methodology employed by the Fundació in undertaking the project, as well as a manual explaining the criteria for each piece of information recorded in the catalogue.
Beyond the affordances of the site, the Fundació takes advantage of the chance to draw on the knowledge and information possessed by Dalí scholars, collectors, and the general public, inviting visitors to the site to contact the institution with any information or news on works that appear in the catalogue via “Contact” links on the catalogue page and the catalogue project description on the “Research” tab. Indeed, one of the great benefits of producing a catalogue raisonné in digital form is the possibility to allow the public to actively engage with the resource, as well as the ability of the institution to update cataloguing information in real time. Although there is no information in the records themselves indicating their creation or update dates, the “Research” tab on the Fundació website contains a more detailed description of the project scope and timeline, indicating that the original cataloguing was completed between 2004 and 2014.
The Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Salvador Dalí is an excellent and thorough digital resource on the work of the artist. A vital tool for anyone wishing to learn more about Dalí’s body of work, from curators to casual enthusiasts, it will be of particular use to scholars and provenance researchers.