Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Eric Wolf

Second Advisor

Morgan Falconer


Ever since the Covid Pandemic in 2020, auction houses around the world have changed their policies on printed auction catalogues - many simply did not print auction catalogues, or at a much-reduced volume; publishing instead the information online. The issue here is evident: without public access, auction houses have the ability to manipulate data and self-regulate their records. This can result in a skewed presentation of data that favours their interests while concealing less favourable information. Public archives have already suggested their frustrations in this trend, most notably, at the Paul Mellon Centre: “Catalogues have been acquired in the following ways: by subscription on publication from the 1970s–2020 from Bonham’s, Christie’s, Phillips and Sotheby’s auction houses. Most auction houses stopped producing printed catalogues in 2020 but these are still acquired on an ad hoc basis when they are made available.” The Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, received an average of 481 auction catalogues in between the year 2020-2023, compared to a total of 2269 in the year 2015. There had been ample studies on the history of auction catalogues and their importance to the art history world: such as Elizabeth Pergram’s Selling pictures: the illustrated auction catalogue ; A Conference on Book Catalogues, Tomorrow and Beyond by Eric Holzenberg and Auction Catalogs and Indexes as Reference Tools by lee Robinson , none has focused on this very contemporary issue that may extend a huge impact to the art history world. The aim of this essay, therefore, is to revisit the importance of an auction catalogue in museums collection both in the academic sense and from a collector’s perspective. A mixture of qualitative and empirical studies will be used, together with primary and secondary sources. The question of “what happens if we stopped collecting catalogues” could be paired with the more dystopian question of “what would happen if we never collected them?” It is my every hope that the auction house work with institutions to develop a collection method that would benefit all.