While the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan wage on, NGOs, scholars, and governments from around the world have worked to raise awareness as well as to safeguard the wealth of cultural heritage currently at risk in the Greater Middle East, as evidenced in the recent exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met).
JSTOR is collaborating with the Thomas J. Watson Library at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Art Reference Library in a pilot project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to understand how auction catalogs can best be preserved for the long term and made most easily accessible for scholarly use. Auction catalogs are vital for provenance research as well as for the study of art markets and the history of collecting. Libraries, however, face a range of challenges with respect to their catalog collections, including preservation concerns and shelf space constraints.
The Frick Art Reference Library holds more than 88,000 auction catalogs dating from the seventeenth century to the present. These catalogs are essential for researchers establishing the provenance of an art object. One of the unique holdings of the Frick within this collection is artist atelier auction catalogs. An atelier auction sells the contents of an artist’s studio, usually shortly after his or her death. An example of this type of auction that relates to the collections of NYARC institutions is the atelier sales held in May and June of 1900 at Galerie George Petit, Paris, for the animal painter and sculptor Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899).
The Frick Art Reference Library was established in 1920 by Helen Clay Frick, daughter of Henry Clay Frick, founder of the adjacent museum. Each year the Library serves approximately six thousand individuals with a serious interest in art, primarily scholars, museum and art market professionals, collectors, and graduate students. One of the world’s most valued art research centers for the study of art in the Western tradition, it is also one of the most complete resources for the study of collecting and patronage.