As we approach the March opening of our Matisse show, we are finalizing the last details of the exhibition catalogue. It will be a 368-page book, with over 650 illustrations: in other words, BIG!
As you might guess, making a catalogue of this size and scope is no small task. Besides the authors and research and conservation teams from the Art Institute and MoMA that have generated the original material, we have a team of people in our Publications department dedicated to pulling it all together. Editors work with the authors to review the texts and make their message clear and concise, and to integrate all of the various written elements with images to make a book that flows for the reader. At the same time, other members of our department are collaborating on the photo editing and production of the book: gathering and clearing rights for the images being reproduced in the book, coordinating new photography, color correcting images to make sure they look as much like the actual artworks as possible, and supervising the printing. The designer lays out the text and images, working very carefully to pull of the details together visually. Possibly most interesting of all is the high degree of involvement by the Matisse Estate–every image of a work by Matisse that appears in the catalogue is reviewed and approved by them before publication. In the end, the entire editing and production process must be completed while working within our budget and staying on schedule: a daunting task!
It is always worth it in the end. The exhibition will be open for a short three months, but the catalogue will be available for years to come: we like to think of it as a lasting monument to a momentous gathering of objects from around the world.