Reviewed October 2020
Courtney Baron, Director, Bridwell Art Library
University of Louisville
Catalogue Rouge is a digital art library that provides access to art monographs, museum exhibition catalogs, catalogues raisonnés, magazines, and auction house archives. Incorporated in Helskini, Finland, and founded in 2017 by a group of art collectors, dealers, and researchers, the goal is to collect and digitize as many art history publications and catalogues raisonnés as possible to bring these key resources to a wide audience of art researchers. This resource sells itself as the only way to access many titles in an online format. The content is provided by art book publishers, museums, libraries, and archives. Partner organizations include the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Art D’Australia - Stéphane Jacob gallery of Aboriginal art in Paris, the Dorotheum auction house in Vienna, and the Montagut Gallery in Barcelona.
At first glance, Catalogue Rouge appears to be a standard e-book provider with a focus on art publications; however, upon further investigation, it is actually a subscription-based service designed for individual use and a method to self-publish visual arts research. There are three tiers: trial, basic, and standard. All plans include unlimited database search, free and open access database access, and the new and upcoming publication newsletter. The difference is in the number of paid publications to browse in the individual’s library. Since Catalogue Rouge is based in Europe, the pricing is listed in Euros. The trial subscription is € 2.99/month with access to one publication; the base subscription is € 29.90/month with access to ten publications; and the standard subscription is € 59.90/month with access to twenty-five publications. There are 16,645 titles available as e-books in the subscription version and almost 9,000 titles included in the free version; note these numbers include individual periodical issues. Select titles include The Art Market, Lens Magazine, and Burlington Magazine. Art Market is premium content that requires an additional fee beyond the subscription plans; it costs either € 4.50 per issue or € 25.00 for an annual subscription. Users can select which publications they want to access in their individual library by selecting the “Add to My Library” button on the book page. The website does not mention institutional or library subscription plans and pricing.
The “Call for Submissions” section on the website is a cause for concern. Self-publishing content to Catalogue Rouge is free and the site promises creative control over the entire process (writing, editing, design, and printing). The author determines the price of the book and is promised 70% back in royalty. One example of a self-published title is Degas Monotypes: A Catalogue Raisonné 2019 by Miguel Orozco. The description states this work is an attempt to continue, update, and complete the 1968 work Degas Monotypes: Essay, Catalogue, and Checklist by Eugenia Parry. The title page of the e-book indicates that this work was originally uploaded to Academia.edu. The author’s Academia.edu profile states that they are an art collector and independent scholar. This discovery prompts questions about quality control since works uploaded to Catalogue Rouge do not necessarily undergo peer-review or an extensive editorial process and users may have to investigate the author’s credentials. Therefore, further evaluation is required when accessing resources in Catalogue Rouge.
Unfortunately, since this subscription resource is not designed for libraries and much of the content is not easily verifiable, this reviewer is not able to recommend Catalogue Rouge. Several reliable scholarly alternatives to Catalogue Rouge are available as open access or subscription resources, which include comparable or superior art and art history content. A recommended subscription resource focused on art e-books is the Art & Architecture e-Portal (A&AePortal) which provides access to key scholarship and exhibition catalogs from publishers such as Yale University Press, Art Institute of Chicago, Princeton, and the National Gallery of Art. This database has institutional subscription plans, image browsing, and many other features to aid with research and course use. Other subscription options for accessing art e-books include JSTOR, which has over 6500 open access titles, and EBSCO eBook Academic Collections, available as an add-on cost. Free e-book resources include HathiTrust and the Internet Archive.