ⓘ Exhibition catalogue. There are two types of exhibition catalogue: a printed list of exhibits at an art exhibition; and a directory of exhibitors at a trade fai ..


ⓘ Exhibition catalogue

There are two types of exhibition catalogue: a printed list of exhibits at an art exhibition; and a directory of exhibitors at a trade fair or business-to-business event.


1. Art or museum exhibition catalogues

Catalogues for art or museum exhibitions may range in scale from a single printed sheet to a lavish hardcover "coffee table book". The advent of cheap colour-printing 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 and that are elaborately publicized very often have catalogues in the form of substantial books.


1.1. Art or museum exhibition catalogues 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 and other critical apparatus. 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 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 lander 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 schone Stil 1350-1400. Europaische Kunst unter den Luxemburgern from Cologne 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 and in the USA by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.


1.2. Art or museum exhibition catalogues 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 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 ISBNs. However, exceptions do exist: the catalogue of an exhibition of the photographs of Nakaji Yasui was produced via an independent publisher and distributed as a regular book.


2. 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:

  • A buyer’s guide’ where exhibitors are listed under relevant product or service categories
  • Advertisements promoting the exhibitors
  • Summary alphabetical list of exhibitors
  • Floor plan showing the location of each exhibition stand
  • Details of seminars or conference sessions running alongside the exhibition
  • Exhibitor profiles normally a textual description of each exhibitor plus their contact details
  • Introduction and welcome message from the event organiser

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, SIAL the Paris-based food exhibition, and Nuremberg International Toy Fair 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.


3. Art catalogues referred to

  • Nakaji Yasui: Photographer 1903–1942 / Yasui Nakaji shashinshū 安井仲治写真集. Tokyo: Kyodo News, 2004. ISBN 4-7641-0542-X. Exhibition held at the Nagoya City Art Museum and Shoto Museum of Art Shibuya, 2004–5. Text in both Japanese and English.
  • Taninaka Yasunori no yume: Shinema to kafe to kaiki no maboroshi. Published by the exhibitors, 2003. Exhibition held at the Shoto Museum of Art, Suzaka Hanga Museum Suzaka and Utsunomiya Museum of Art Utsunomiya, 2003–2004. Text in Japanese only.
  • The History of Japanese Photography, ed. Anne Wilkes Tucker, et al. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-300-09925-8. Exhibition held at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Cleveland Museum of Art, 2003.
  • Die Parler und der schone Stil 1350-1400. Europaische Kunst unter den Luxemburgern, ed. Anton Legner. 3 + 2 vols. Cologne: Schnutgen-Museum, 1978 & 1980.
  • 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, 1995. Text in Japanese and English.
  • Bernard 23 items Louis Roy 7 items Ludovic Nemo 2 items The catalogue for the exhibition had a somewhat idiosyncratic layout. The title page was followed
  • materials. The building is described by The Illustrated Dublin Exhibition Catalogue as: Presenting a front to Merrion - square of 300 feet, the main or
  • Collection catalog, a catalog of a museum or archive Exhibition catalogue a catalogue of art Catalogue raisonne, a list of artworks Music catalog, a catalog
  • eyes of Europe. In modern times, the Great Exhibition is a symbol of the Victorian Age, and its thick catalogue illustrated with steel engravings, is a
  • than having individual trade stands for competing companies. The exhibition catalogue guides the visitor around the seven halls detailing all of the gas
  • Empire Exhibition - Final Report by Captain JS Graham, 11 January 1939 Empire Exhibition Scotland 1938 - Official Catalogue Empire Exhibition Scotland
  • Exhibition Retrieved 5 December 2013. Empire Exhibition at Johannesburg Nature. 137 3457 182. 1936. doi: 10.1038 137182a0. Souvenir Catalogue
  • Indian Exhibition for a list of objects from the exhibition in the British Museum collection Colonial and Indian Exhibition 1886 Official Catalogue London:
  • Britain was an exhibition of fine art held in Manchester, England, from 5 May to 17 October 1857. It remains the largest art exhibition to be held in the
  • Exhibition of 1957 dedicated to the 40th Anniversary of October Revolution. Catalogue - Moscow: Soviet artist, 1957. - p.68. 1917 - 1957. Exhibition
  • Exhibition Catalogue - Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1958. - p. 63. Autumn Exhibition of works by Leningrad artists of 1958. Exhibition Catalogue