At Large  October 26, 2022  Rebecca Schiffman

A Conversation with ars publicata's Pauline Schellmann

Courtesy of ars publicata

Andy Warhol, Electric Chair, 1971. Ten screenprints on paper. Each sheet: 89.5 × 121.9 cm (351/4 × 48 in).

The art world is changing. As the public becomes more comfortable online, demand for virtual art experiences is growing. Art businesses and institutions must quickly learn and adapt to this new digital world.

One organization attempting to lead the way is ars publicata, a free digital compendium of catalogues raisonnés and editioned works of four hundred of the world's top contemporary artists, including Cy Twombly, Marlene Dumas, and Andy Warhol.

Ahead of ars publicata's launch on October 27th, Art & Object got a look into the mind of its CEO and co-founder, Pauline Schellmann.

Credit: Viktoria Gorny, Berlin.

Portrait of Pauline Schellmann.

Art & Object (A&O): It’s great to see that you’re working to make art editions, art collecting, and art history more accessible through the new free online platform — ars publicata. How did this idea come about and what was your main motivation? Did you hit any roadblocks along the way?

Pauline Schellmann (PS): As a publisher of fine art editions with over 50 years of experience and editor of the edition catalogues raisonnés for artists such as Beuys, Christo, Judd, or Warhol, my father Jörg Schellmann recognized a lack of accurate, up-to-date, and truly accessible documentation on these artworks. 

So, we started researching existing catalogues raisonnés and other comprehensive publications, building a sophisticated but easy-to-use catalogue raisonné database, and finally, researching artist edition oeuvres ourselves to create work listings. 

Catalogues raisonnés usually take years to build and once published are the definitive resource; our work listings are more works-in-progress to provide an overview and as much information as possible - sometimes created in collaboration with an artist’s estate/studio, other times simply researched and compiled in-house. Not being able to convince everyone to participate or not being able to get in touch with all the featured artists in the first place was probably our biggest roadblock. But sharing our own research that we will hopefully be able to continue to improve – perhaps even with our users’ input – created an exciting new opportunity and approach.

Courtesy of ars publicata.

Marlene Dumas, United Europe, 2003/05. Digital pigment print in colours, on rag paper, with full margins. 37 × 28 cm (14.6 × 11 in).

A&O: As a collector yourself, how do you think this new platform will be an asset to both new and experienced collectors? 

PS: I think the medium of editions is often misunderstood and overlooked. Most people are probably quite familiar with Joseph Beuys’ multiples and Andy Warhol’s silkscreens, but not everyone understands the difference between Warhol’s unique silkscreens and his editions. Or between an editioned print and a reproduction. And even if they do, they might simply not be aware of the medium’s variety in technique and scale or have yet to discover that some of their favorite artists have created editions too. 

I hope that both young and established collectors will take advantage of our tool, browse through the different documentation and discover the many beautiful artworks that have been created.

A&O: The art market is known as being for the elite. What is your experience with this, and how will ars publicata change this?

PS: We document the editions of some of the world’s most successful and therefore expensive artists, so pretending to be particularly inclusive would be insincere. But the medium of editions is, by nature, more inclusive than that of unique artworks and you’d be surprised by some of the price points - it can be a really good starting point for young collectors. 

More importantly, though, the compendium itself is very inclusive because it provides information that not everyone might have access to otherwise. I remember a conversation with an artist’s studio that declined documentation of the artist’s edition oeuvre and argued that anyone interested in the artist’s editions could just contact the artist’s studio or gallery. By “anyone”, they of course meant known collectors and specific people with the right connections and access.

Courtesy of arspublicata

Cecily Brown, All the Nightmares Came Today, 2012/19. Full color digital archival print on Epson Hot Press Natural 330g/m2. 50.8 × 61 × 2 cm (20 × 24 × 4/5 in).

A&O: Where do you think the future of the art market and art publications is headed? 

PS: In our ap gallery, we will publish and sell editions at a wide range of price points to be able to include a variety of different types of editions, but affordability will certainly be one of the things we focus on. The compendium itself is free to use, additional tools can be accessed at a very low monthly fee, and if you sign up for the more expensive bi-monthly membership you get access to ap gallery discounts. Therefore, I definitely think it would be a resource for students and the general public. In fact, that was one of the reasons we built ars publicata – to encourage more people, who do not already have access to this type of information, to discover editioned artworks and gain access to the art world that way.

A&O: Is there anything else you wanted to mention to A&O readers?

PS: The ars publicata website will launch simultaneously with our first digital exhibition, Painterly, which will feature works by Marlene Dumas, Chris Ofili, Gerhard Richter, and Andy Warhol, among others. Painterly examines the ways in which the archetypal medium of painting translates into prints and multiples – what painterly qualities prints and multiples can exhibit on a technical level, and the emotional and symbolic significance of the brush stroke to both artist and viewer. The exhibition will showcase wide-spanning approaches to gestural traditions, with curatorial texts which we hope will allow users to make informed decisions while beginning or expanding their collections.

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