The Age reviews The New McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art and examines the difference between The Encyclopedia of Australian Art and The New McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art:
I have in front of me the third edition of The Encyclopedia of Australian Art, published in 1994. Next to it is the new edition, rebranded as The New McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art. What are the main differences between the two?
The fourth edition is much thicker and comes in a cardboard slipcase, which, like the encyclopedia itself, is covered in a luscious Tony Tuckson abstraction in dark blues and greys, overprinted with orange lettering. It begs to be picked up and dipped into. There are more than 8000 entries, 1500 of them new.
Three generations of McCullochs have had input into this project: the late Alan (1907-1992), his daughter Susan, and her daughter Emily.
The book takes us through the alphabet of Australian artists from Arkley to Zika. But it does far more than that. Different sections also list public and private art galleries; auctions, trusts, and foundations; prizes, awards, and scholarships; art schools and universities.
Anyone who has ever edited a magazine or a catalogue will feel for the enormous task that has gone into producing this book.
In a section at the beginning called “About this Book” the compilers tell us that it is the result of “more than three years of solid research, including the distribution of thousands of questionnaires to artists, private galleries, Aboriginal community art centres, schools, universities and public galleries”.
Two other changes are flagged here. The first is the inclusion of a complete section on Aboriginal art, listing not just artists but family groups, arts centres and regions. As a sign of these online times, the encyclopedia now lists, wherever possible, artists’ websites and those of galleries and other organisations.
So how do artists get selected for inclusion? Each edition, we are told, “use(s) the criteria established by Alan McCulloch in 1968. Artists are chosen for inclusion if their work is represented by major purchases in a national, state, or regional gallery or if they have won a significant prize”.
Tough decisions had to be made on who to include from the “thousands engaged in arts management, writing or curatorial fields as well as the ever-changing spellings of many Aboriginal names”.
What makes this book a real standout is the quality of the colour reproductions and the unobtrusive design that holds it all together. It is a wonderful picture book, in addition to being an indispensable research tool. Pretty much everything is in full colour unless the original work is in black and white – a drawing or a photograph.