Peter FitzGerald

The rise of the PDF? (Friday 4 September 2009)

I was at Ronnie Hughes' opening at the Goethe Institut in Dublin yesterday. Only problem was, the opening had taken place the day before. I think that's the first time I've managed that - a matter of misreading the invite. Got to see the show itself though - a lovely, measured installation in that quirky space.
On then to the Futures opening at the RHA around the corner. If anything, painting dominated this excellent exhibition, with strong works from Sinéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Kevin Cosgrove and Mark Swords; the other artists are Maria McKinney, John O'Connell, Seamus Nolan and Aideen Barry; it occupies the whole upper floor of the RHA and runs until 27 September.
Misreading the Ronnie Hughes invite got me to thinking about invites. Gradually, more and more galleries and art spaces are claiming that they are giving up printing invites; sometimes the invites disappear for a while and then reappear. Invites are an expensive business, and as a gallery's mailing list grows, some galleries must get increasingly frustrated by the discrepancy between the number of names on their invite list and the number who actually appear in the gallery.
But that is possibly not where the biggest printed-matter discrepancy lies. There has been a boom over the past decade or so in printed books and catalogues to accompany shows in galleries and art spaces. Many of these are very fine publications indeed. The problem is, there is no proper distribution system for these publications. [1] The average number of copies printed of each publication is probably around 500; the average number actually distributed is probably around 50. Fast-forward a few years, and I suspect most books will be book-sized electronic gadgets. In the straitened meantime, will we see the decline of the artist's catalogue and the rise of the PDF?
[1] There is the Circa online shop, of course - more here.