Artist: Sol LeWitt (1928 – 2007)
Scope: Wall Drawings, 1968 –
Organized by: Artifex Press
Database and Format: Artifex Press proprietary software platform; online catalogue raisonné
Complete, categorized objects: 1,351 wall drawings, comprising 1,785 distinct artworks and approximately 3,500 installations
Price and Availability: Individual subscriptions are $500, $50 annual maintenance fee. For Institutional subscriptions, rate based on size and type of institution.
Key Staff: Lindsay Aveilhé, Editor; Christopher Vacchio, Director of Research; Christine Shang-Oak Lee, Research Associate
CRSA: How involved was the artist with the catalogue raisonné project?
SLCR: LeWitt began the catalogue raisonné project in 2006, shortly before his death in 2007, building on previous catalogues raisonnés covering the years 1968–1992 published in 1984, 1989, and 1992, respectively.
CRSA: How did object entry formats evolve from the printed editions to the current online catalogue raisonné?
SLCR: LeWitt determined the format for primary caption information for wall drawings in the early 1970s. The previous print catalogues only included this primary caption information for each wall drawing, and did not include images of each wall drawing. In addition, his 1984 catalogue did not include diagrams for each work. The online catalogue includes full caption information for each wall drawing, as well as diagrams for all wall drawings that have them, installation histories, selected publication histories, and detailed notes explaining the evolution of works.
CRSA: Were there any issues around how to differentiate wall drawings from the rest of the artist’s oeuvre?
SLCR: Luckily, wall drawings are quite distinct from LeWitt’s other bodies of work. There do exist a number of works on walls, but they are not considered wall drawings because they were not given wall drawing numbers by LeWitt, and are thus not included in the catalogue raisonné. Because of their conceptual nature and the fact that they are installed and reinstalled over time, the cataloguing of wall drawings necessitated a distinct approach from LeWitt’s other work. Each installation of each work had to be confirmed and tracked individually, to catalogue the evolution of each wall drawing over time, as LeWitt edited and refined the concepts for the works, or created one-time variations for specific exhibitions.
CRSA: What other catalogues raisonnés were consulted during the development of the project?
SLCR: Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights was particularly useful to our team as we discussed the best ways of representing these works in entries and how to be as transparent as possible in presenting information that could not be confirmed. The André Cadere Catalogue Raisonné was also useful in helping us craft a distinct methodology of cataloguing these conceptual artworks.
CRSA: What were some of the most essential research resources and institutional collaborations?
SLCR: The archive of materials collected by LeWitt’s studio manager Susanna Singer over the three decades she worked with LeWitt, as well as LeWitt’s personal archives at the LeWitt Collection in Chester, Connecticut, were our most important sources of documents, as were the Marzona archives at the Kunstbibliothek Berlin and Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, the Giuseppe Panza Collection archives at the Getty Research Institute, the Archives of American Art, and the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition archives. In addition, our institutional outreach involved contacting hundreds of museums and galleries that have hosted installations of wall drawings, as well as interviewing dozens of the drafters who installed the works over the past five decades.
CRSA: Was digital color management employed in the documentation of the wall drawing installations?
SLCR: Yes, particularly in the scanning of analog materials for display in a digital catalogue. However, because wall drawings have been installed in so many venues over time, and the materials and formulations used to install them have evolved, there is a meaningful variation in the appearance of images that is true to the actual installations. As such, we limited the use of color correction primarily to physical photographs which were discolored or damaged.
CRSA: What are the catalogue raisonné’s multimedia highlights?
SLCR: We have included several dozen videos showing the installation of wall drawings at different venues, to help illustrate the differing processes of installing these works. One particularly interesting piece of media is a video clip of the installation of LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #26 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 1969, accompanied by the audio of LeWitt relaying his instructions for the work for the exhibition “Art by Telephone.”
CRSA: How were the issues of authentication and provenance relevant to the project?
SLCR: LeWitt issued certificates of ownership in various forms before replacing and standardizing the certificates for wall drawings in 1984. While the new certificates supersede the originals, some originals were never replaced. Additionally, some installations were not recorded at the time, and thus not originally given certificates, but have been determined to be distinct and valid artworks. We have worked closely with the Estate of Sol LeWitt, led by his daughter Sofia and the artist’s chief assistants, throughout the process of identifying and verifying the works.
CRSA: Will future updates be issued on a rolling basis or collected for periodic release?
SLCR: Future updates to the catalogue will be collected and published on a regular, periodic basis.
CRSA: If this catalogue raisonné was considered an evidential biography of the artist, what would be a good descriptive subtitle?
SLCR: A good subtitle would be “In and Out of the Studio.” Perhaps the single biggest misconception about LeWitt is because he did not install most of his wall drawings himself, that he wasn’t putting a great deal of effort into his work. In reality, Sol worked in his own studio every day, creating the plans for wall drawings, as well as paintings, gouaches, and works on paper. His studio practice was essential to his wall drawing practice, even in those cases where he did not install wall drawings himself, and allowed him to experiment and work out concepts that would span the different media he worked in.
To learn more, visit Artifex Press: https://artifexpress.com/catalogues/sol-lewitt-wall-drawings/description or contact the Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings Catalogue Raisonné at LeWittCR@artifexpress.com
Interview conducted by Carl Schmitz, Director of Communications and Publications