The digitisation of catalogues raisonnés (which are comprehensive and detailed listings of an artist’s oeuvre) has long been proclaimed as the solution to the disadvantages of the printed publication. Printed catalogues raisonnés are often expensive, difficult to get hold of, and are often out of date due to the difficulties in updating them.

Catalogues raisonnés often act as the supreme arbiter of authenticity and, as such, have a significant impact on the value of the works they document. From an art-historical and provenance perspective, the catalogue raisonné is perhaps one of the biggest factors influencing art pricing. Digitising it provides a more transparent overview of which works are recognised by the artist or artist’s estate, and the approach is growing in popularity. For example, the Hamburg Kunsthalle and Kaldewi Foundation have recently digitised a catalogue raisonné devoted to the German artist Max Beckmann.

The other major influence on pricing is usually a work’s record at auction or, if the data is available, sales records. These factors are often viewed side by side to determine an artwork’s provenance and corresponding value.

Even this process is being simplified through digitisation. A new platform called Facture has been introduced, which marries up catalogue raisonné data for more than 60 artists with an abundance of images and auction prices, museum inventory, and gallery listing sites. It can be searched manually, by using the image-recognition software or messaging its chatbot. It hopes to revolutionise art pricing mechanisms by pulling the levers that together make up the value of an artist’s oeuvre.

Resources like these are not designed to reveal private transactions, or to compromise the discretion that has defined the industry for centuries. This information will not suddenly be revealed as a result of digitisation. We expect that increased accessibility to publicly available pricing and authenticity data will serve as a stabilising factor in the market. It will enable a larger numbers of buyers and sellers to transact in confidence.