Friday, 29 September 2017

Ends of lines - endangered prints about to sell out

"Boat at the Wharf" by Stanley Palmer
(4 prints left today)
I'm writing about our "endangered prints" collection this month because we have had an unusually high number of prints going into this ends of line category in the past few weeks (a few dozen as opposed to a handful every month or so).  This is probably due to the life cycle of the large number of prints published about 10 years back, when there was a structural shift in the market from artists printing reproductions to be on-sold by distributors to a few commercial publishers printing many titles from a single artist on a royalty basis.  There was a natural limit to this market (the size of NZ means there may only be a few hundred people who want a particular scene on the wall, and once they have it they aren't going to buy it again) so the slightly less popular titles from these ranges are not being re-printed and are now selling out.

Probably the print we will be saddest to see go is the beautiful large reproduction of Ralph Hotere's painting "Dawn/Water Painting".  This was originally published by the Christchurch Art Gallery to co-inside with a survey exhibition of Hotere's paintings while he was still alive (as an aside at times like this often a print is not made for strictly commercial reasons, the artist royalty of several thousand dollars will be paid up-front as a sweetener to get the artist's support to show works from their collection).  We have sold this print for many years and it is exactly what we believe in, a good quality reasonably priced art print by a top shelf NZ artist.  It probably will never be re-printed, so our advice to Hotere fans is please buy it today!

Why is this a thing?  It really has a lot to do with the size of the market for prints
Margaret Stoddart "Violets" (Last 2)
of NZ scenes or prints by NZ artists. Often an initial printing of a few hundred prints will be enough to satisfy demand.  The print may be open edition but the economic incentive to re-print is similar to the book industry, there will only be a second run if demand is there.  So, like books, prints simply go "out of print", and are only available on the second hand market.  This does not mean that their value will increase markedly if they are a reproduction of an original artwork but it does somewhat preserve their value around the purchase price as in good condition a print still has exactly the same appeal to a buyer even if it is not brand new (unlike say clothing).

This reality has changed a bit over the past decade as digital short run printing has become more prevalent, digital printing is ideally suited to a small market albeit at the disadvantage that unit costs do not decline dramatically as they do for offset lithography meaning prices are higher (we have seen the average cost of a large art print rise from around $NZ 50 to between $NZ 70-80 over the same period with the amount paid to the artist staying relatively static as the per unit printing cost is the main component in the cost increase (along with a small increase in GST).

So we have three main drivers for prints ending up in our "endangered prints" collection.

1. Print runs selling out.  A publisher, artist or gallery prints a few hundred prints and when they are sold out either customer demand is not there to re-print, or it was a one-off event such as a touring show/retrospective exhibition.

2. Prints were limited edition.  This is a different category altogether, particularly for original prints (where the prints are multiple artworks, they are not copies of another art form such as a painting) but also for reproductions printed in a smaller number, usually signed and numbered by the artist. These have a scarcity value as well as a decorative value and are not intended to be available over a longer period than a few years at most.  Established printmakers like Tony Ogle or Dick Frizzell tend to keep a balance between editions selling out and new work, with broadly the same number coming out each year as sell out - which shows that the supply and demand for their work is in balance.  It always rings alarm bells for us at the investment end of the art print market when initially successful artists with sold out editions begin increasing editions sizes, then the number of new editions each year, this is a slippery slope to beyond the pale re-printing under the guise of "roman numeral" editions etc!

3. Prints produced by commercial publishers using digital printing which theoretically could stay in print forever but are deleted by the publisher.  This is for two reasons. Firstly sales may not justify the space in sales reps catalogues or in administrative overhead (eg calculating artist royalties), one well known NZ publisher and distributor has a rule that if less than four prints a year are being sold they will delete the product line.  Secondly the artist's contract may not be renewed.  Contracts to make prints range from 1 to 3 years, unlike with offset printing where artist's work would be available potentially for years after the contract had lapsed due to a clause that allowed the publisher time to sell all printed stock with digital printing the lower stock inventories on hand means a publisher may only keep a month or two's supply on hand.

Shane Cotton Print - last one!
As soon as we know a print is running out (no firm and fast rule but less than 20 in stock is usually a trigger) we'll start keeping an eye on stock on hand.  When we are down to a number that is about what we would sell in a couple of months we pop the prints into our endangered gallery.  We also update our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and once a year we do a mail out to every one on our mailing list with every NZ print that is running low, so our special bunch of subscribers never miss out on a print they like but hadn't quite got around to ordering.

One final thought, selling prints online makes it so much easier to keep our catalogue up to date which is a blessing! Unlike our printed mail order catalogue which gradually becomes inaccurate regarding availability (and sometimes price) over the course of its useful life we can remove prints as easily as checking a box at the back of prints.co.nz.


Monday, 21 August 2017

Lindauer print found in US antique shop with background story about this famous painting

One of the interesting aspects of working at a business with a high profile online is the "unpaid helpdesk" kind of enquiries that flow in via email, over the phone and increasingly through Facebook messenger as well.  These are the enquiries that come to us when a NZ artwork is discovered, about to be sold, or just researched over the internet to find out a bit more about the print or artist.  We deflect enquiries about values of paintings to the right auctioneer for the quality of work/artist and can usually help if a person is trying to work out if an artwork is a painting or a print (what they paid for it is a good place to start!).

Most of these enquiries will not lead to a sale but there doesn't seem too much harm in helping out, hopefully the next time they are thinking about prints they will think of New Zealand Fine Prints.

We got a different kind of enquiry over the weekend from the States.  There a couple of kiwis had discovered a Lindauer maori portrait print in an antique store and they were keen to know if it had originally been sold by us.  What was cool about their enquiry however was that they also emailed a photograph of the label on the reverse of the framed print which had a very well researched blurb about the original painting, the artist and the subject (Rewi Manga Maniopoto) which contained much that was new to us despite having stocked this print for many years. Fascinating to learn that the cloak he is wearing is decorated with the tail hair of specially reared dogs that slept on clean mats to "keep their tails as white as possible"!

It was great to be able to say that we probably sold the print some time over the past 50 years and to thank them for sending us the extra information about this portrait, and that we would put this online for other people interested in this famous portrait to learn more about it:

Rewi Manga Maniopoto


Print of Lindauer's Painting
Rewi Manga Maniapoto, born between  l815 and 1820, was descended from Hioturoa, navigator of the ancestral canoe Tainui, and was an ariki of the Ngati Maniapoto. His tribal lands lay to the south of the Waikato tribe, in the rugged territory of the Waipa and Puniu rivers. From his boyhood, Rewi Manga was fully engaged with the Ngati Maniapoto in inter-tribal warfare.

Rewi Manga is remembered as one of the most popular fighting chiefs of the Maori King Movement. It was he, for instance, who encouraged the participation of Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato people in the Taranaki controversy, ignoring the opposition of the Maori King and Wiremu Tamehana. Rewi and his Ngati Maniapoto people also acted unilaterally in their bid to clear European authority out of the Waikato when they took possession of the Court, the schoolroom and the printing press of John Gorst, the Civil Commissioner of the district, at Te Awamutu.

Rewi's most celebrated action in the Waikato conflict was his last-ditch defence of the Orakau Pa in the heart of Ngati Maniapoto country, in March 1864. The gallantry of that defence has passed into legend. A contemporary report of the event provides a tribute to Rewi Manga's leadership of the federated tribes of the Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto, the Tuhoe of the Urewera, the Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Kahungunu of Hawke's Bay:

No human situation can be conceived more desperate or more hopeless   their lands gone, their race melting away like snow before the sun, and now their own turn come at fast; with enemies surrounding them on all sides . . . this is the last peace and surrender: hoa, ka whawhai tonu ahau ki a koe, ake' (Friend, I shall fight against you for ever and ever). 

In the years following the end of the Waikato war, the Ngati Maniapoto, led by Rewi Manga, together with the Maori King, Tawhiao Matutaera Potatau Te Wherowhero, encouraged Te Kooti to take up the work of routing the European settlers from the land. However, Rewi Manga did eventually renounce his support of Te Kooti in return for the assurances of the government that there would be no further military' operations in the King's territory.

Rewi Manga lived until 1894, through the period which saw the enactment of confiscation and the further decimation of the Maori population.

Lindauer's portrait depicts Rewi Manga in his prime, proudly displaying symbols of his chiefly power, and with full facial moko and huia feathers. He holds a hoeroa, a rare weapon carved from the- lower jaw bone of the sperm whale. His dogskin cloak, a kahu waero, was the most highly prized type of the Classical period. It is a dress mat like a korowai, but so thickly covered with strips of white dogstail that the kaupapa of the cloak is completely concealed by the long-haired bushy tails. This type of cloak was made by fastening strips of tail at one border of the mat, hanging loosely to form a heavy fringe. On the body of the mat, strips were placed along the warp and secured by the weft threads.

Colenso has left a record of the high value of this type of cloak, describing in particular the dogs from which the tails were obtained:

White haired dogs were greatly prized, and were taken the greatest possible care of: They slept in a house on clean mats, so that their precious tails should he kept as white as possible. Their tails were curiously and regularly shaved, and the hair preserved for ornamental use. 

Monday, 31 July 2017

2018 NZ Fine Prints Catalogue coming out this week

Glimpse of NZ Fine Prints 2018 catalogue - (artists "A"...)
This was going to be called the New Zealand Fine Prints "50th Anniversary" catalogue but we chickened out due to our anniversary actually being last year and eagle eyed observers might think our catalogue was already out of date.

We already have to print enough catalogues to last a couple of years (we send them out to both our very large mailing list (mail order is still a great channel for us) and include one with every purchase).

Deciding which artworks to include is a huge exercise.

Our paper catalogues don't have to be the sourcebook for every print, poster and limited edition print available from a NZ artist these days - this is the job of our online catalogue at prints.co.nz.  However a physical catalogue is a great showcase to let you all know about new prints and artists who have published/created prints recently as well as an easy way to show what we do for customers who are hearing about us for the first time.

Putting together a new catalogue is not easy production wise, we have to get all the details of every print right as well as to try not to include too many editions that will sell out while the catalogue is current.  That's before we wrangle hundreds of images into order without mixing them up, or, in one memorable case - printing a Doris Lusk painting upside down without noticing!

It also seems that as soon as the catalogues come back from the printers our catalogue manager gets a tonne of wondrous submissions of new work that we wished we could have included!

Our catalogue is now signed off and should be printed by the end of this week, it's a heady mix of fresh ink in the office when the pile of boxes are delivered and so exciting for us when the first sales of never before seen prints start coming in.

You can download your own (7mb) final draft of the NZ Fine Prints 2018 catalogue here - and look out for the paper version in a letterbox near you soon!


Friday, 30 June 2017

Yesteryear Prints - A Christchurch landmark

Christchurch picture framer and art print retailer Yesteryear Prints is to close its doors after 35 years.

This suburban print gallery in Beckenham was very well known in Christchurch both for their unique collection of art prints from NZ and around the world as well as first class picture framing - often with a long waitlist.  Yesteryear's longevity in the competitive world of art retail is a tribute to its current owners Norma and Graeme Elcock who steadily built the business over the 80s and 90s into a very successful store.

The business is not being sold as a going concern, the stock is being put on sale and the distinctive building has sold.  We understand their framer, Anton, is going to another framing shop in Ferrymead.

Yesteryear Prints 28 June 2017

Norma and Graeme had a very particular eye for older style (ok, I'll say it, "yesteryear") prints - classic Pears soap advertisements and Victoriana was a particular strength (they supplied us with many of these re-prints of old public notices in our letterpress posters collection).

We don't have quite the same depth in these specialities but as NZ Fine Prints stock over 2500 different titles of art prints just a few minutes away from the Yesteryear Prints previous location we should be able to help you find the perfect print - please check out our catalogue online at Prints.co.nz. You can collect prints from us if you are in Christchurch or we deliver nationwide.



Sunday, 30 April 2017

Reuben Price's NZ Flora photographic prints

Pohutukawa Portrait Flora Print
New prints just released by Auckland photographer Reuben Price are truly breathtaking.  His game changing new series of "NZ Flora" art prints have an incredibly life-like three dimensional effect that is completely unlike any other photography prints currently available in New Zealand.

We asked Reuben how he managed to achieve these remarkable images of New Zealand plants such as the Silver Fern, Pohutukawa and Kowhai.

He told us that a custom built flower press was the first step in a long and painstaking process to create this series of artworks.  Reuben then placed the plants in a completely light controlled environment of his own design so that all visible shadows were removed.

The next step was to capture the detail of the subject using ultra high resolution photography.

Printing the finished photograph was done by Reuben in house, the series are printed using lightfast inks and offer incredibly good value at $69.95 each.

Every print from the NZ flora series is finished with a hand embossed emblem on the bottom left hand corner.  This series deserves to be very popular with print buyers and we hope that the five initial prints are followed up soon with an extended range of subjects, we would love to see Kakabeak (both white and red), Kowhai flowers and the Chatham Islands Lily given the same high tech meets fine art photography treatment.