Thursday, 28 March 2013

Prints by Graciela Rodo Boulanger top sales charts in NZ

Two decades after they were published prints of paintings by Bolivian born artist Graciela Rodo Boulanger are topping the sales charts again in - of all places - New Zealand.  The curious story of how a Latin American artist who worked mainly in France has recently become one of the top selling artists at NZ's specialist art print retailer, New Zealand Fine Prints.

About the artist

Born in 1935 in La Paz, the cultural capital of Bolivia in South America Graciela Rodo Boulanger's parents were a concert pianist and an art collector.  A talented musician Rodo Boulanger studied in Vienna in 1952 and moved to Buenos Aires at the age of 22 to further her musical career. It was in Argentina that she embraced an artistic career path instead of continuing as a professional pianist. Rodo Boulanger has always considered printmaking a key part of her practice, she was working in a French engraver's studio in the early 1960s when she met and married French diplomat Claude Boulanger and by 1968 Boulanger had her own etching studio in Paris.

For most people their first exposure to the work of Graciela Rodo Boulanger was through a series of prints of her paintings such as "Holiday on Wheels" published by "Touchstone Publishers" starting in the mid 1970s.

Boulanger prints stored for over twenty years in New Zealand

"Girl With Cello" Print by Graciela Rodo Boulanger
Boulanger's Print "Girl with Cello"
A large number of these prints were imported into New Zealand from the publisher in the US. Prior to 1984 NZ had import licensing which meant distributors were incentivised to purchase ludicrously large amounts of prints at one time to use up their entire precious allocation of overseas funds once they had been granted a license. Back in those days NZ Fine Prints used to have a license to import prints for "educational purposes", at one point we had about twenty years supply of famous prints by artists like Van Gogh and Monet in stock for our market of just over 4 million people!

For twenty years the Boulanger prints sat in a warehouse in NZ, carefully stored in their orginal packaging until the advent of online shopping brought them to light again.  Almost as soon as we listed the prints for sale online we began shipping Boulanger prints all over the world.  We deliver for just $NZ15 (approximately $US10-12 depending on the exchange rate on the day) by Airmail and prints are wrapped in acid free tissue and packed in super solid cardboard mailing tubes so they will get to buyers in perfect condition.  With worldwide demand both from new collectors of her work combined with people looking to buy pristine replacements of a favourite print that has faded or been damaged prints by Graciela Rodo Boulanger are outselling prints by NZ's most popular artists and printmakers in their own land!

Print supply running out due to buying online from around the world

However with a rapidly dwindling supply of prints, some titles (especially from her bicycle and musical themed series such as the girl with cello print that we have used to illustrate this article) are getting very low on stock.  We have sold out of several prints over recent weeks and today have less than ten on hand of several titles listed for sale in the Graciela Rodo Boulanger collection at our gallery.

When the artist began publishing reproductions of her work nearly 40 years ago she would never have imagined that they would lie unsold for decades in a small country in the middle of the South Pacific only to re-appear in the top selling charts (albeit briefly) thanks to the magic of being able to search online for exactly the print you need from anywhere in the world.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Inspiring, Entertaining & Practical Guide to the NZ Art Market

Behind the Canvas: An insider's guide to the New
Zealand art market by
 Warwick Henderson
Review of Behind the Canvas: An insider's guide to the New Zealand art market.  By Warwick Henderson with a foreword by Hamish Keith.  Published by New Holland Publishers.  In bookstores now or purchase directly from Warwick Henderson Gallery here.

Our verdict: Indispensable. 

Format

"Behind the Canvas" is structured in 10 chapters, starting with "A Brief History of the Art Market", taking you through "Building a New Zealand Art Collection" to "Selling Artwork" with diversions into the illuminating "Information and Advice for Artists" and "Fakes, Forgeries and Flops" along the way.  A helpful "Recommended Reading and References" section rounds off the main part of the book. This is followed by in depth endnotes, exhaustive picture credits and a useful and thorough index (the book is well edited and nicely designed by Kate Stone and Kate Barraclough at New Holland).

Engaging & Informative

The soul of this publication is Henderson's ability to convey his enthusiasm for the the NZ art market in a delightful breezy style whilst filling the reader with knowledge.  Readable, often funny and comprehensively informative Henderson de-mystifies collecting art in the affable manner of a kiwi Bill Bryson taking a complex topic and making it highly digestible.

There is an entertaining openness and disarming honesty about "Behind the Canvas",  Henderson's mistakes are wryly dissected and not every purchase ends in triumph although lessons may be learned. The intersection between art and business is the central theme of the book, the role of the dealer balancing the needs of each side of the transaction is clearly explained. The interests and requirements of both collectors and artists are taken into consideration across the chapters, and aspiring (and perhaps competitive) dealers will learn a lot too!

A key influence on Henderson's approach to art dealing seems to have been one of the author's "first forays into a Wellington dealer gallery" where the dealer was "extremely personable and friendly - a typical Kiwi bloke and not the stereotypical snobby dealer". This book is in the tradition of making art accessible without dumbing it down that outlets like Peter McLeavey's gallery epitomised to the first generation of buyers of contemporary NZ art.

Prints

This writer expected the usual dismissive treatment of artists' prints but was pleasantly surprised when original prints were covered respectfully and some were even illustrated in the book.  Early NZ prints were even mentioned as a possible starting point for a collection.

Online Sales

Likewise when the heading "E-Commerce Sites and Other Art Junk" leapt off the page to this reviewer (disclosure: I am the marketing manager at one of NZ's busiest art selling websites) what follows is a carefully nuanced review of the pitfalls of online sales of art from the vantage point of over 30 years in the industry that does not throw the ecommerce baby out with the bathwater.  What was particularly interesting was the even handedness of the critique, Henderson is equally concerned about the sellers of artwork on sites like TradeMe being hoodwinked by savvy buyers as he is by buyers unwittingly buying mass produced paintings being passed off as original artworks.

Conclusion

The only disappointment is that with such a comprehensive book - Henderson wryly notes the "scope of the book grew much wider than I (or the publishers) had originally envisaged" - there may not be enough material for another book by this writer on this topic in the near future.

Creative New Zealand's visual arts budget would buy 100,000 copies of this book. This writer couldn't think of single better way of supporting the continued long term growth of the NZ art market than delivering this engaging, inspiring and practical book into 100,000 households tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Interview with fine art conservator Lynn Campbell (Part 1)


As part of our occasional series of articles interviewing professionals working in the New Zealand art industry (see for example an industry snapshot of digital fine art printing and last year's interview with Auckland studio photographer Bret Lucas on how to photograph paintings ) this week NZ Art Print News talks to paper conservator Lynn Campbell. A paper conservator's job is concerned with the preservation, cleaning and repair of art works on paper like prints.

Lynn was incredibly generous with her time and sent through some superb background information about her work in art conservation and what is actually involved in training to be an art restorer like her. So in this first article we'll meet Lynn, let you know a bit about her background and describe how you train to be a paper conservator plus try and give our readers an idea of what it's like to work in art restoration.  In our next piece Lynn will then tell us what is best practice for the long term storage and display of artworks on paper such as prints.

Lynn Campbell - Paper Conservator 

Lynn removing dirt from an artwork
When we wanted to find the best advice on how to care for fine art prints there is no better source of expertise than New Zealand's own globetrotting paper conservator Lynn Campbell.  Lynn's company here in Christchurch, Campbell Conservation, offers a full range of paper conservation, alongside fine art works on paper like prints she also works on repairing and preserving documents, archives and even wallpaper.

Lynn teaches preventative conservation processes including disaster preparedness for collections, good handling, risk mitigation including storage and does conservation surveys of collections along with general care of art works advice for collectors.

Lynn's recent projects

Campbell has just returned from her time as a Getty Guest Scholar at the Getty Conservation Institute (motto "Preserving the world's cultural heritage to advance civil society") where she shared her professional response to the Christchurch earthquakes in the paper An Investigation into New and Recent Methods and Processes Involved in the Salvage of Heritage Collections in an Earthquake Zone. The Getty Institute has a global focus working to advance "conservation practice in the visual arts, …serving the conservation community through scientific research, education and training, model field projects, and the broad dissemination of the results of both its own work and the work of others in the field."

Another career highlight was three trips to Antarctica, as Lynn told us "I was one of the first conservators to travel to Antarctica to work on the three historic huts there. I returned twice after this to continue work on the huts of Scott and Shackleton".

Why did you become a paper conservator?


Antique print prior to restoration (courtesy Campbell Conservation)
We asked Lynn to tell us a bit about her background and how she became an art conservator who specialises in paper.  She told us that she originally came from the UK and initially obtained a BA (Hons) in fine art printmaking.  Lynn says "I was always interested in conservation but it was only after I had finished my degree that I realised there were courses available to train in paper conservation in particular".  Although she had been fascinated by museums as a child it was not until her teaching degree year that she "realised that there were courses in conservation. So I immediately applied to the Newcastle course [the "Post Graduate Certificate in Fine Art Conservation" from Newcastle University] and was accepted the next year".

Post graduate degrees in both teaching and the conservation of fine art led to her first position at the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh. Campbell then returned to teach on the Masters degree course in Conservation at Newcastle upon Tynne and just before she immigrated to New Zealand she taught basic conservation skills to archivists from throughout Africa in Zanzibar. In NZ she worked at what was the then Robert McDougall Art Gallery (now Christchurch Art Gallery) before launching her independant art conservation practice, Campbell Conservation.

What training do you need to work in Fine Art Conservation?

We asked Lynn what is taught at a post graduate course in fine art conservation.  She told us "when studying in the conservation of Fine Art on paper one has to learn a great deal about practical methods and processes including the study of chemistry and physics".   She quoted the fine art conservation course at Northumbria University which states "The ultimate goal of a paper conservator is to stabilise objects to ensure their continual existence. This not only entails state of the art treatment techniques on individual items but extends to the preservation needs of an entire collection."

"The scope of the paper conservators’ work has widened in recent years and they are often involved with issues relating to collections care such as developing and maintaining archival housing standards, exhibitions, advocacy and project management." Paper objects are particularly vulnerable to light, humidity and air pollutants as well as contact with harmful materials such as acidic backboards, pressure sensitive tapes and ill-fitting frames. Deterioration can also occur through improper handling and exposure to active mould spores. "

Next article we look forward to talking with Lynn about how to best preserve your works on paper (such as antique or artists' prints) for long term storage and display. UPDATE 12/4/12: As promised the second part of this article, "How to look after fine art prints", has now been published.