Search and You Shall Find

Book review Max Germaine's Artists and Galleries on CD Rom Published by Macquarie Multimedia RRP $199 (reviewed by Anna Ward with Julia Farrow vi$copy@wr.com.au)

Max Germaine's Artists and Galleries on CD Rom the new fourth edition, which is only available on CD Rom, sits well alongside other standard visual arts reference works like the McCulloch's Encyclopaedia and NAVA's Who's Who. Apart from the AIATSIS database published by Discovery Media which has moved through its CD phase and is now available via Internet subscription for $200 annual sub, this is the first of the major Australian major reference works to become available on CD Rom and therefore it has great appeal to the new generation of IT oriented arts administrators. Pricewise at $199 it is more expensive than the 1984 print edition at $70, but this is now hard to obtain, whilst McCulloch sells at $150, and so, 'trog' that I am, I decided to compare the book with the CD-Rom.

Artist entries remain in the standard format and for some artists like Karl Duldig they are reprinted but this edition has been upgraded to include contemporary artists like Fairskye and encompasses both traditional and urban Aboriginal artists. Less well served are artists working in new technologies like Paula Dawson. In fact the whole entry on Multimedia reads more like 'Collage' than 'Digital' though there is a category for Video. Similarly, prominent gay artists like Peter Tully and David McDiarmid - the first artistic directors of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras - are not found amongst the entries which is a significant omission both in terms of the influence of craftspeople and designers on Australian contemporary art and gay politics since the seventies. Amongst Galleries new entries include the Sir Hermann Black Gallery at the University of Sydney, established in the beginning of 1995.

With over 250 images there are twice the number of 'Illustrations' and the selection varies substantially form the 1984 edition. In terms of copyright it's pleasing to see the VI$COPY credit for copyright management of the artist's work or estate on some works including the Fairweather and Lanceley. Unlike Who's Who Germaine's work does not attempt to provide contacts for artists though this information might be gleaned from the tail end of the Exhibitions list, then cross-referenced with the Galleries entry. Therefore in the digital environment when it's now so easy to download prints, copyright attribution and a centralised management agency will be especially important in tracking downsteam use of the works.

In relation to technology my computer literate colleagues have said that "It's strange that you can only get 'it' on PC when so many people in the visual arts use Macintosh" especially given there are so many CDs these days that come cross-platform.' So, it's over to the publisher to snare that $199 which a keen curator had in his hand at the launch only to be damned on finding out that he wouldn't be able to load this invaluable curatorial tool on his Mac.

The interface is 'Bookish' and fairly simply designed (a bit 'clunky' said my expert and I don't know what that means.. but search time is ok) and works are arranged in such a way as to complement the text, as we are familiar with in print based work. One artist= one image. While some of the ease of dealing with a printed index such as a List of Illustrations is removed due to the nature of the structure of databases, nonetheless whereas the 84 edition didn't have an index at all the CD Rom allows more efficient and comprehensive searches. The search function is straightforward and offers the option of a 'fuzzy search' too. On my run-through the boolean structure (and/or for the illiterate!) it functions better when you use categories such as "Painter" and "Awards: Archibald or Wynne" (which produced 65 entries, including Shead '93 but not Sharpe'96), than it did testing on Lancel(e)y, Painter, Sherman = no results; however Lanceley certainly did appear in Sherman Galleries list and vv.

Or "Medium/Painter and Style/Abstract" but no Plapp in this index although he does appear in the general listing. Clearly, this result depends more on the entry of key words at input stage, than it is a commentary on the contents of this Rom.

In terms of content the choices in this CD Rom edition are as wide-ranging as an updated print version would have been but this is enhanced by its database functions. There is no radical re-think either of contents or format - and so to bed top curl up with my companion volume!

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