Monday, 11 May 2009
Prints of Maori Portraits painted by Goldie, Lindauer - Should they be allowed by New Zealand Galleries?
Faced with the dwindling supply of prints of paintings by Charles Frederick Goldie we were talking in the office today about the problems publishers of prints are having with the publication of Maori portraits that are held in some major New Zealand public galleries.
For a long time paintings of Maori subjects have been reproduced as prints. Goldie himself did a handsigned print of "A Good Joke" in the 1920s (which now sell for around $1000 each on the rare occasion they come up at auction). However during a major Goldie exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery in 1997 some Gallery staff became nervous about the use of Goldie's Maori portraits (on a large calender) after they were questioned about their right to do so by at least one descendant. Since then the idea of seeking permission from descendants of a [Maori] portrait's subject before a painting is reproduced has taken hold at at least two major New Zealand public art galleries. We have heard the term "moral copyright" being used to describe this new idea that if a print is being made of a painting with people in it there is an obligation to trace descendants of the subjects to ask their permission.
Because we stock all Maori portraits available as prints we have descendants of Goldie (and Lindauer) subjects emailing or calling on at least a weekly basis who want to purchase prints of their ancestors that are not currently in print. Print publishers are facing a gallery policy that is inventing a new form of copyright that is not recognised outside of a couple of institutions in New Zealand. We would love to hear views from all sides of the debate about the publication of prints of Maori Portraits - please add your comment to the discussion below.