Thursday, 20 November 2014

Gifts for Xmas 2014 - Mailing Dates

As always pre-Christmas is an especially busy time for us here at NZ Fine Prints, art prints are perennially popular Xmas gifts and making sure we deliver on time for Xmas around the world and throughout NZ is vitally important. Please call us on 0800 800 278 if you have any questions about delivery of your prints in the lead up to Xmas.

NZ Fine Prints Christmas Mailing Dates for 2014 are as follows:

Delivery worldwide at our standard rate of just $NZ15 (for any number of prints):

Australia

Please order your gifts by Wednesday 10th December 2014

UK & Europe, East Asia, North America & South Pacific

Please order your gifts by Monday 8th December 2014

Rest of World

Order Xmas gifts by Friday 5th December 2014

Xmas Delivery to NZ Addresses

Standard Delivery for $NZ6 (for any number of prints)

We need to have your orders for prints being delivered as gifts for Xmas by 3pm Friday 19th December 2014

Deadline for next day courier delivery via CourierPost with guaranteed delivery for Xmas day is 3pm Tuesday 23 December

Framed Prints - please order 10 working days before these mailing dates to ensure we can deliver by Christmas.

Gift Vouchers


NZ Prints also deliver gift vouchers by mail to NZ addresses if ordered by 23 December - and email gift vouchers are even being purchased on Xmas day itself and delivered instantly around the world. Now that is last minute Christmas shopping!

Shipping & Delivery Updates


As we get closer to Xmas we will update any delays or known issues with Xmas delivery on our shipping & delivery page.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Reproducing Gordon Walters artworks as prints (continued...)

Publishing prints of Gordon Walters artworks - a recap
The print of Gordon Walters' painting
"Kahukura"
(published by the Capper Press)

Back many years ago now our family's publishing company "The Capper Press" published a good quality photo-lithographic (off-set) colour reproduction print of a Gordon Walters koru series painting "Kahukura" - pictured here.  Prints of other Gordon Walters' artworks had also been made by other publishers and posters from exhibitions featuring good sized reproductions of his paintings and original prints were also on sale from time to time.

The print of Kahukura was about to sell out in 2007. In accordance with the publishing agreement we had with the artist - quote "In the event of an edition becoming out of print, the Publisher may reprint at his [sic] discretion" we went to re-print this popular print.  However an unexpected problem arose in what is usually a very straightforward process when we wanted to make sure we could do the best quality print possible.  This meant rather than re-using an old transparency we would use a fresh crisp digital image from Victoria University of Wellington in whose collection the original painting of "Kahukura" hangs. When they asked us to confirm clearance with the copyright holder (no longer Gordon Walters himself as he had died in 1995) we were stopped in our tracks by the Gordon Walters Foundation which now controlled his estate.

The reason the Gordon Walters Foundation gave for refusing permission for Victoria University to give us a new image to re-print was based on a legal opinion they had obtained regarding the original memorandum of understanding between our family's publishing company and Gordon Walters that we had forwarded to them - a narrow legalistic response that ignored the clear intent of the artist freely given while he was alive to allow reproduction prints to made of this painting.

Although this opinion was not persuasive we chose not to take it further for two reasons. Firstly out of respect for the wishes of the trustees of the Estate (they had presumably resorted to legal nitpicking because they didn't want prints being published, their reasons for this were never made clear but obviously this was the effect they wanted).   Secondly over the longer term we knew to try and win a narrow legal argument over the miniature of a yellowing agreement concerning just "Kahukura" meant we'd lose the goodwill of the Foundation's trustees when it came to us (or any other publisher) requesting copyright clearance to publish prints of other artworks by Gordon Walters in the future.

Previous more detailed discussion on this issue goes back to 2008

New Print Available - First Gordon Walters Print for a decade!
Print of "Makaro" - Painting by Gordon Walters
from Te Papa Collection Ref: 1970-0021-1
However the reason for re-visiting this issue is because, somewhat surprisingly given what is described above, we can announce that for the first time in a decade there is a new Gordon Walters print available for sale!

It is relatively expensive for an open edition reproduction print at $109.95 for a 510 x 670mm sized image. This is because they are being printed using the "one print at a time" giclee method rather than off-set and we are paying TWO separate commission amounts (neither amount goes to the Gordon Walters Foundation because the copyright for this painting was sold to the national museum along with the actual painting, it's Te Papa and their partner giclee printing company in Auckland who are getting the publishing royalties from Makaro). The irony is that the Foundation have effectively given a monopoly to the only publisher that ensures they will receive no financial benefit from any sales!

If this print does (as we certainly expect it will) become one of NZ's top selling prints I hope that the trustees of the Gordon Walters Foundation will revisit the issue of refusing to allow prints to be sold of the work of Gordon Walters. Making the artwork of significant New Zealand artists accessible to the thousands of people who appreciate their work but can't afford an original whilst raising ongoing revenue to promote the aims of the artists' Foundation via publishing royalties is recognised as making sense in the case of estates of similar artists Colin McCahon and Rita Angus - it's pretty conventional practice that shouldn't raise any concerns for the Gordon Walters Foundation trustees.

Lets hope this new print will not be the only one for print buyers to choose from until Gordon Walters' artwork leaves copyright in 2045!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Buying art by price - pragmatic approach to the fore during the gift buying season

Here at Prints.co.nz we spend a lot of time learning about the different ways people use to discover art, and how people actually look for art to buy once they are browsing our online catalogue.  Back in the early days of putting our catalogues online (last century!) we had a very academic approach to classification.  Prints were catalogued by artist (to answer the question - what prints are currently available by NZ artist x?) and movement.  Yep, we assumed customers would narrow their selection down by first considering the place the print was going and then would say to themselves something like, "I think a post-impressionist print would be ideal above the fireplace in the living room". Reality is rather different!

However as we head into the busiest selling time of the year - due to the enduring popularity of prints as Christmas presents - probably the most unromantic and practical way to select art comes to the fore. When buying gifts (and obviously gift vouchers) the most common starting point is of course the budget so top of mind are the prices of the artwork for sale!

Our website offers the ability to sort any category of prints by price in the drop down menu at the top of the main product listing page.  However we have found that when, for example, buying a leaving gift for a work colleague etc sorting the entire range of art prints for sale into clear price points saves a lot of browsing time.  Unlike buying for yourself a gift purchase is sometimes more of an obligation carried out with a degree of grudging reluctance rather than the pleasure of dreamily browsing artworks picturing them on the wall of your home or office.

Purchasing art by price is certainly not the only way that we would like to present the range of prints we have on offer but prosaic as it is if you just want to get the Xmas gift buying done as easily as possible going to the search by price collections listed on the browse by categories page and selecting a print from near the top when sorted by best-selling is one of the simplest ways to keep to your budget and give a gift that will be popular with the recipient.  Using our sales figures means you are crowdsourcing to find the kind of art that more New Zealanders like.  Quick, easy and reliable way of ensuring a happy smile when the gift is unwrapped.

Over the past few days we have updated all of the search by price collections by adding the hundreds of new art prints published and printed over the past few months.

We are delighted to announce that you  can now check out NZ Fine Prints entire Xmas 2014 range of over 2300 prints for sale sorted by price below:

Under $30 | $30 - $50 | $50 - $100 | $101 - $500 | $500+

Current best selling prints in NZ priced between $50-$100 - Screenshot from Prints.co.nz

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Two new limited edition prints from Shane Hansen

Artist Shane Hansen with
one of his sculptures
Pania & The Dragon
Edition of 50 prints
Hansen's two new limited edition prints make a compelling pair.  Both prints are semi-autobiographical, referencing the different strands of Hansen's genealogy, the Maori and the Chinese.  These artworks are about coming to terms with your cultural background, making sense of your ancestry.

Pania is a recurring character in Shane's work, in "Pania and the Dragon" she is depicted feeding a dragon from a bottle.  A poem accompanies the print


Oh bless the little girl who sits and feeds the little dragon
Does she not see the danger?
Look at his large toothy grin, his big greedy eyes
He will drink all her milk if she’s not careful
Why does she smile so?
What does she know that I don’t know?
Oh bless the little girl who sits and feeds the little dragon

Home Sweet Home is nostalgic but not sentimental, Shane says "No matter
Home Sweet Home
Edition of 50 prints
where we come from, what our heritage, we all have a place that is our ancestral home. Our distance, be it physical or emotional, holds no barriers, as all are welcome when the time comes to reconnect. This place, warmed by those who came before and those whom have kept the fires burning, waiting for our return. Home Sweet Home."

Both prints are in editions of fifty screenprints, individually lovely but we also think these look great as a pair of prints on the wall alongside each other.  Superb decoration for children's rooms that will become increasingly meaningful as they grow up alongside them.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

From pop art to urban style: The evolving prints of Brad Novak

For so long pop art has been the genre that many contemporary artists felt comfortable being labelled with.  However with the pop art movement now nearly 50 years old there has recently been a shift toward a more urban feel in contemporary art, heavily influenced by the most exciting thing in modern art right now - street art.

Auckland printmaker Brad Novak's career has bridged this change of tone.  Novak's butterfly tiki prints were firmly in the NZ pop art tradition but he has recently taken on a harder, more urban edge whilst still retaining this strong sense of NZ identity.  

Brad Novak "Reservoir Birds"
Limited Edition Screenprint
His new Reservoir Birds print references both the cult movie "Reservoir Dogs" and the bird paintings of Christchurch painter Bill Hammond.  However he brings a grittier sensibility to this new print that is clearly post-Banksy - you could imagine this image stencilled onto the wall of an alleyway in downtown New Zealand.





Here is Brad Novak's video, "The making of Reservoir Birds" filmed at Artrite screenprinting studios in Auckland.  The print is available for sale here.  Please note the black paper version was not able to be released due to a fault with the batch of ink used, the white paper print is the only version that is for sale at New Zealand Fine Prints.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Tiki: More than decor - a symbol

We believe there is now emerging a deeper meaning to New Zealanders buying prints of symbols like tiki and koru than just a superficial decor trend.   This article is a call to critically examine a casual dismissal of the extensive use of the tiki motif in particular as just another (temporary) phase of a wider kiwiana trend in NZ art prints that will pass.

More than just a decorative piece a tiki print first and foremost represents an ongoing connection to Aotearoa/New Zealand.  When a tiki is given as a present it's often a deeply meaningful gift that symbolises a connection with NZ and/or the person or people who gift the artwork, in essence a tiki has grown to mean friendship and connectedness with a uniquely NZ slant.

Picasso Tiki by Lester Hall
Tiki are now a symbol that is accessible to - and understood by - nearly all New Zealanders and this recognition extends to people who may have a passing acquaintance with NZ, may live in another country etc but to whom this idea of the tiki's meaning still makes sense.  It's becoming clear to us that for New Zealanders today tiki are not being purchased just to decorate in the supremely superficial manner like the kitch decor of an American tiki bar that is practically divorced from all meaningful connection with its Polynesian origins beyond the historic accident filtered through the decades.

Tiki in pre-colonial Maori culture

Whether as a memorial to the ancestors or associated with fertility and childbirth tiki were undoubted connected with the sacred, the spiritual and a sense of connection to place or people by Maori. Unlike other Polynesian cultures where tiki were predominantly carved wooden objects in Aoteaora the pendant known as the Hei-Tiki is the most well-known expression of the tiki form.

Tiki in NZ Art

Tikis were first re-worked in a fine art context by Dick Frizzell in his response to the debate around cultural appropriation in the 1990s and are now part of our collective cultural identity. The evidence that a tiki is now more than just a decorative motif is also that despite the ongoing popularity of Tiki prints as a genre they simply not becoming stale or boring because the idea of the tiki continues to evolve and deepen as successive artists re-mix, re-invent an re-interpret the tiki shape and form. Whether referencing pop art, Aboriginal art, Picasso (see Lester Hall's latest print above left) and even Dick Frizzell himself in wonderfully circular fashion in "Tiki to Diki" - or used as an anthropomorphic symbol of Maori ancestry in the prints of Shane Hansen such as this one below.

Shane Hansen Print "Boy and Friendy"
As non-Maori New Zealander's are now becoming a distinct culture,  often referred to as Pakeha or even as "white Polynesian" this also means we are becoming more likely to unselfconsciously give the gift of a tiki or a koru (a symbol of renewal or new life) than, for instance, to reach for a religious artwork such as Durer's Praying Hands which would have held a similar sense of shared meaning in an earlier more religious time.

When a friend or work colleague returns to their home country after time spent in New Zealand colleagues and friends send them home with a picture of a tiki,  not just to remind them about their time here, or to celebrate our unique Maori culture - but most importantly as a symbol of the recipient's special connection that they will always have with New Zealand.  We also send tikis to New Zealanders overseas to remind them of their connection to home instead of the more obvious picturesque views of their favourite landmarks.  Mickey to Tiki may be easily the most well-known tiki print, regularly delivered by us as a gift for weddings, birthdays and Christmas for a decade now - but we believe there has been more to its popularity as a gift than it just being chosen because it was a safe choice as NZ's most popular print over this time.   Given the messages included with the print we know there is usually this kind of underlying heartfelt and sincere meaning behind the gift of this most famous of all artworks featuring a tiki.

There is now an ongoing place for tiki as "more than just decoration", it is not just a decor trend because this greater idea of the tiki is now part of the NZ identity.  This deeper wellspring of meaning means artists will continue to find ways to drive the idea of the tiki into new and unexpected directions (so much so we have now even created a permanent tiki prints collection). But just as there is a difference between a plastic tiki and a hand carved tiki we think there is a distinction between a watered down version that verges on cultural appropriation to a sincere reworking of what has become a cultural icon for both Maori and non-Maori New Zealanders.

New Zealand artists & the future of the Tiki

And considering tiki are a Pacific wide icon it is exciting to see that tiki art from NZ are clearly now
Drippy Tiki by Greg Straight
the best tiki artwork available because thanks to artists like Dick Frizzell we have taken an indigenous motif and taken it further to imbue it with even more meaning and resonance when you see it on the wall!  Not taken an indigenous icon out of context (as a decoration for a tiki themed bar for instance) but to be an emblem of our NZness with deeper meanings beyond the visual representation on the wall.

Mickey to Tiki is accessible to non New Zealanders not just because Mickey is so recognisable but also because the tiki is increasingly well known outside of the Pacific.  And New Zealand artists are leading this growth in popular consciousness because they are evolving the tiki from an emblem of an historical culture - without sacrificing its meaning - into a fresh and contemporary form that incorporates and includes while (with a few grating exceptions) still respecting and paying homage to the underlying symbolism of the hei-tiki in Maori culture.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

McRangi - is "Maori Art" selling out or promoting Maori culture?

McRangi by Shane Hansen - Edition of 40 prints
Shane Hansen is one of NZ's most widely known contemporary Maori artists. He has accepted commissions from high profile clients such as Maori Television, Air New Zealand and his artwork adorns the New Zealand Tourism head office in Auckland.  He has even followed in the footsteps of Andy Warhol with an art car project for BMW!

But he is uneasy about the popularity of a genre known as "Maori Art" in a way that is in some ways similar to our misgivings about the re-branding of non-Maori New Zealand art as "kiwiana".

Hansen's new print of a Maori Ronald McDonald figure is his expression of this questioning of the balance between commercialisation and celebration of Maori art by artists like himself.

Shane Hansen at work in his Auckland studio
McRangi (pictured above) is a much looser artwork than his usual crisp style based on what Hansen describes as an "old school image of Ronald waving that had a creepy nostalgic feeling about it". In this print McRangi asks in Te Reo "Ko tenei taku titiro kite ao whanui? - "is this how I see the world?".  Hansen is wondering if his artworks are cheapening Maori culture or exposing it and communicating it to others in a good way.

We don't think that Hansen has anything to worry about as his thoughtful and original series of prints push the boundaries of New Zealand art forward, refreshing and re-interpreting as well as adding a completely new style that is completely his own.  But even if there is a less vivid expression of "Maori art" being produced in the gift/souvenir market to meet the current demand that could be seen, as Hansen puts it, to be "cheapening" Maori culture is this anything new?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The amazing prints of Michael Smither

If an interior designer gave us the brief to decorate an entire building to showcase the best of what we stock BUT we were only allowed to use the prints of a single NZ artist - right now we'd recommend the superb range of prints by NZ painter, printmaker and composer Michael Smither.
Michael Smither with print

Printmaking is central to his artistic practice, we are sure that it is in his blood because we have been told that Smither's father was also able to screenprint!

Stones in Blue Bottle print by Michael Smither
Stones in Blue Bottle | Screenprint | Ed. 71
Shown here are a couple of our favourite Michael Smither prints.  In particular we love the "Stones in a Blue Bottle" print because it brings the iconic Smither rockpool study indoors, a “still life with rock pools” and the "Coral Head with Fish" print because the depth of the image is astonishing and this print looks truly amazing with the right kind of lighting at night.  These are the kinds of prints that stop people in their tracks to check them out even if they have no idea who the printmaker is because they are just magnificent in both ideas and execution.

Coral Head with Fish | Limited Edition Screenprint 
We have just about completed the task of cataloguing all the prints that are currently still available from editions created by Smither from an entire lifetime of printmaking.  Alongside Dick Frizzell this is one of the most significant and large bodies of work currently available to collectors of NZ prints and yes - in answer to another common question - it's Michael Smither prints that we have on the walls at home, he's definitely very well represented in our own personal collections.


Monday, 28 July 2014

Future of Printmaking in NZ

On July 26th there was a panel discussion in Auckland at the Gus Fisher Gallery timed to co-incide with the opening of “Printmaking: Beyond the Frame”.  Billed as “The Future of Printmaking in NZ” the discussion was led by the former Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland (and practising printmaker since 1975) Dr Carole Shepheard and Steve Lovett of the Manakau Institute of Technology Diploma of Visual Arts programme.

I was intrigued to read the useful summary of the discussion by Delwyn Archer, I was unable to hear the discussion first hand so I am grateful for her comprehensive notes.

What caught my attention was what seemed to be missing from the discussion - one obvious way to continue to strengthen printmaking in NZ is simply to grow the number of collectors.   

Professional development and support are important issues, collaboration and comparison spur progress, but these are internally focussed within the printmaking community.  I could only find one reference that wasn’t inwardly focused, when Dr Shepheard says printmakers should be making “amazing work that cannot be ignored”.

I think the printmaking community in NZ should have a much greater focus on the print collector and propose the modest goal of increasing the number of serious print buyers in NZ by 100 each year  - a relatively small number which is surely achievable. After a decade that is an extra 1000 people purchasing say 10 prints a year, at $200 per print that's an extra $2m going to support printmakers.

The place to start on the path to achieving this goal is working through the media to educate the NZ public about the delights of collecting original prints.

NZ Fine Prints would be happy to financially support a campaign for greater awareness of original printmaking as a collectable artform to help achieve this goal of 100 new serious collectors in NZ each year.  In return we need original printmakers to support our goal to offer a wider range of original prints to our customers (the first step is get in touch with me, I manage our catalogue of prints).

Encouraging more collectors of original prints will be a key factor in the future of printmaking in NZ looking back from 2024 and we are here to help.

NZ Fine Prints have a proven sales channel in place to support artists financially so they can get on with their practice.  The internet has changed the way art is sold and NZ Fine Prints uniquely has nearly 50 years of print selling expertise in addition to 15 years experience of online selling. We are not shy about the commercial opportunities we can see for prints and printmaking and think it is ok to mention the financial benefits of print collecting  - and we are print collectors ourselves.  

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Cataloguing Prints - an update

After the earthquakes in Christchurch one of the jobs that got less attention while NZ Fine Prints re-organised behind the scenes was the cataloguing of new prints.  Since then it has been a huge relief to get our waiting list for artists who had submitted work down to just a few weeks after stretching out to several months during late 2011 and 2012.

We receive artist submissions most days and the guys answering the phone often get the call to find out what's involved in having reproduction prints made of an artwork after an artist is told they "should be having prints made of that painting".  (As an aside - sometimes this comment to the creator is perhaps meant as a compliment rather than commercial advice, we wonder too if it's sometimes a nice way of saying "no thanks" to buying the painting!).  It should be pretty straightforward to list new prints for sale but for most of the past three years we have had a backlog of at least 150 new prints waiting to be properly catalogued for sale both in our catalogues and at Prints.co.nz

The reason that listing prints is not quick and easy is because we put a great deal of effort into writing interesting listings for our new artists. In addition for each individual print listing we try and anticipate many of the questions print buyers may have in their minds as they are not in front of the print in a gallery but looking at a representation of the artwork on screen.

One blessing is that we no longer have to re-photograph 90% of the prints submitted to us because the ubiquity of digital cameras means artists usually supply us with .jpgs that are ready to use online.  Fifteen years ago we had a $1600 1.2 megapixel camera and a studio rigged with expensive lights and still couldn't take a decent picture of anything with lines in it!  Maps were my particular bete noire, all those decorative borders that had to be photographed straight on and completely level or the image would look distorted.  I don't recall a "straighten" tool in Photoshop back then. [We also didn't have the benefit of articles like "how to photograph a painting"!]

Glenn Jones "Gumboot Graffiti"
Kiwiana AND street art, or maybe Pop?
Apart from writing a good artist biography that combines the best of a background on their life with the drivers behind their work (like an artist's statement, but written by someone else) each print should also have a blurb, or what we call the "curator's comment".   This tells a person looking at the print a bit more about it, what the artist was thinking, how this print fits in to the artist's catalogue of work - for instance have a look at listings for recently added new NZ artists such as Glenn JonesHolly Roach and Sean Chen. We also spend a lot of time figuring out the best way to describe how the print was made - as we mix both reproduction and original prints, open and limited editions. In the next part of the cataloguing process we have to figure out the galleries or collections that the prints should be placed in.

You can still see glimpses of how we built up the online galleries originally, a very dry and academic classification of prints into movement (eg surrealism, or pop art), nationality and period. Since then whole new categories have emerged (step forward Kiwiana, Street Art) and we have added the ability to search by price and size.  Although we don't want to have our catalogue too finely divided up (because it would be tedious to browse the website if lots of the same prints were appearing in multiple collections) the number of galleries have somehow multiplied to  a list of nearly 80, the latest being portraits and still life.

We thought we were getting to the crossroad where we could either add more and more finely grained collections or try and reduce the number of galleries so customers can find the prints they are looking for more quickly.  However we think we have solved the problem (some small changes coming soon), it's an interesting intersection between indexation and usability that's exactly the kind of thing that keeps me interested in the job of cataloguing prints for sale after twenty years!


Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Vintage NZ Letterpress

Letterpress Poster for "Maori Race Meeting"
Vintage Cobb & Co Advertisement
Early NZ letterpress prints & posters have always caught my eye. They show a skill in execution and composition using a very hands on printing process so at odds with the computer driven designs of today. As decoration they are whimsical, sometimes serious, and even toe curlingly cringemaking - but always fascinating historical content to start a conversation. What's not to like!

We have several "new" letterpress prints in stock, although they are re-prints of the original vintage designs they are authentic letterpress posters, cold type assembled by hand, which makes them a pretty sincere reproduction of the rare original posters which can now only be found in NZ museums or collections like those at the Turnbull and Hocken Libraries.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The two kinds of limited edition prints

In this article we’ll discuss where the real value long term actually lies in buying new prints that are sold as “limited edition”.

It's exciting that the monetary value of vintage posters, antique prints and editions by twentieth century NZ printmakers is being increasingly recognised by the wider art market.  When rare NZ prints are being sold for tens of thousands of dollars those of us who bristle at hearing the phrase “it’s just a print” allow ourselves a tingle of satisfaction at collecting an artistic medium that had managed to remain wonderfully under-rated (ie cheap) for so long… 

Essentially the fact a print is advertised as being a "limited edition" is not necessarily an indication of its long term value because limited edition prints come in two sorts.

1. The first kind of limited edition print is a reproduction of another artwork.

2. The second kind of limited edition print is a multiple original where the print is the end result of an artistic process, there is no other “original” artwork.

Limited edition reproduction of a painting by Brian Dahlberg
A limited edition reproduction can be a copy of an antique print (for instance the series of early prints of NZ published by Avon Fine Prints in the 1960s and 1970s) or a copy of a painting (for example this image from a collection of prints by contemporary Auckland painter Brian Dahlberg).   A reproduction print can be printed offset (photolithography) or digitally (inkjet or giclee) but all are copies of another artwork.

[This writer is well aware that calling the first sort of limited editions “prints” at all is controversial (some in the industry say they should only every be called “reproductions” rather than "prints") - you can read about this debate in a previous article "Artists prints or reproduction prints, spotting the difference in the age of digital printing"].

Reproduction prints can be of astonishingly fine quality today, often printed on canvas and even in three dimensions including the frame - see the video demonstrating Canon's version of this latest technology that has not yet arrived in New Zealand...

 The price a print buyer pays is often higher for a  digital print which unless outrageously excessive  can usually be justified by the higher costs  involved compared to printing offset and the fact  the buyer is receiving a superior quality print in  return. Although the capital costs of owning  digital printers have fallen dramatically  especially given the recent strength of the NZ  dollar there will never be the same economies of  scale that you had with photolithography when  you are printing in very short runs.

 However in our view the high prices that were asked for reproduction prints printed using digital technology when the giclee revolution arrived in NZ a decade ago has led to confusion about the value of giclee reproduction prints today.

This period saw giclee reproduction prints of scenic NZ oil paintings being marketed at over a thousand dollars each, this pushed them up to the same pricepoint as editions from printmakers but in most cases without making the artists a lot of money because the cost structure to get them to market was so high.  But critically this higher cost structure created an lingering expectation that because a higher price was paid for the print it would have to have some kind of long term value, an expectation that a print buyer must be purchasing something with a value that would endure beyond the decorative appeal of the print.

This initial high pricing was the result of the following combination of factors.  The small size of the NZ market, the high cost of materials (inks and substrates), the fact there is no reduction in unit cost for multiple prints being printed at once (not economies of scale unlike photolithography), small numbers of prints being printed at once meant artists were effectively paying retail prices for their printing requirements and the fact that giclee prints were marked up galleries and other retailers by the same amount as offset reproduction prints rather than the smaller margin on what had been the previously more expensive prints, the original editions.

However the price you pay for a print is not always a good indication of its long term value.

We think that a limited edition reproduction print offers extra value for the print buyer if it is signed and numbered by the artist because there is value in knowing that your new artwork is not going to be seen everywhere (scarcity as well as decorative value).  There is also a value in the actual signature of the artist - after all people buy autographs by themselves. The most valuable reproduction print in New Zealand are the signed versions of the 1920s era print of C.F. Goldie's "A Good Joke", valuing his signature at around $1000.  For a contemporary NZ artist like Dick Frizzell his signature being added to an artwork is probably worth around $100, for example on the exhibition poster for the Blockbusters show we have for sale at the moment.

However for serious collectors a reproduction of another artwork is not going to hold its value as well as an original work of art - or in the case of prints, a multiple original.

"Scarcity and decorative value are weak factors in the secondary market when compared to an artwork with intrinsic skill and creativity that also has that magical resonance with art buyers that endures across more than one generation."

We try and make sure that in our marketing of a reproduction print that we stress the value to the buyer in the amazing quality, colour fidelity, large size and longevity of the inks offered in a modern print rather than a mysterious "collectable value".  Print buyers of previous decades would have happily paid more for a print that won't fade for decades and looks just like the original painting, but even at a higher price these are still reproduction prints, not original editions, even if both categories of prints can truthfully be called "limited editions".

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Early Prints of Maori Life : John Gilfillan's remarkable "Interior of a Native Village"

Part of an occasional series of articles on prints from our collection.  This week we look at the tragic life of the artist John Gilfillan whose depiction of a pa on the Wanganui River "Interior of a Native Village" is both a remarkable portrait of Maori life in the early days of colonisation and one of NZ's rarest prints.

About the artist

John Alexander Gilfillan, the son of a Captain of the 78th Highland Regiment, was born in 1793. He ran away to sea at an early age, but later retired from the navy to study art.  Gilfillan's qualifications gained him the position of Drawing and Painting Master at the Andersonian University, a position which he held for fifteen years. In 1826 he married Miss Sarah Murray, by whom he had four children. She died in 1837, and shortly afterwards he married his cousin, Mary Bridges, and moved with his family to London, where he spent three months studying carpentry and engineering in preparation for emigrating to New Zealand.

Gilfillan's Farm at Mataraua
The family arrived in New Zealand on Christmas Day 1841 (Gilfillan's 47th birthday) and went immediately to Petre (Wanganui). They took up land at Matarawa (Mataraua), and built a house on their town section, living there till 1845 when they moved finally to the farm. This house was illustrated from a sketch by Gilfillan in W. Tyrone Power's Sketches in New Zealand.

The murder of Gilfillan's wife and three of his children on 18th April 1847 caused him to abandon his farm, and at the end of the year he moved with his remaining children to Sydney. During the fifteen months he lived there he painted the Interior of a Native Village. The Pa is reputed to be Putiki-whara-nui on the Wanganui River.

Gilfillan moved to Adelaide in 1849, but in 1852 was tempted to the goldfields, and afterwards went to Melbourne. He exhibited paintings at the 1854 Exhibition, and died in Melbourne in 1863.

Printing of the Lithograph

Interior of a Native Village (Lithograph)
The authors of Early Prints of New Zealand were indebted to L.A.L. Moore, Esq., of Wellington for the following account of the circumstances surrounding the printing of the lithograph of Interior of a Native Village.

Mr Moore's grandfather, Captain Frederick George Moore, was in the merchant marine, and arrived in Wellington in February 1840 aboard the Bengal Merchant. He purchased the brigantine Jewess and began trading round the New Zealand coast. He acted as pilot for Wakefield's ships the Will Watch, Whitby, and Arrow when they sailed into Nelson Haven to establish the second New Zealand Company settlement, and himself settled on property at Motueka and in Nelson.

Moore probably first met Gilfillan in Wanganui during a trading visit, but met him again in Sydney in 1848 when he (Moore) was on a return trip to England. Gilfillan gave the painting of Interior of a Native Village to Moore, who took it to London, and on arrival arranged an interview with Prince Albert to see if the painting could be displayed at the Royal art gallery. The picture was inspected by both Prince Albert and the Duke of Wellington, and it was decided that it should be shown at the 1851 Exhibition at the Crystal Palace.

Captain Moore was in charge of the New Zealand Court at the Exhibition, and the picture was among the items included. Moore had 50 copies lithographed, sending 25 to Sir George Grey for distribution, and selling and presenting the remainder to friends and associates in London. After the Exhibition, Moore gave the original painting to his sister in Paris: all trace has been lost since the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and it is possible the picture was destroyed at that time."

It is interesting to note that all known copies of the lithograph bear the word "Proof”.  Moore may have perhaps intended to issue the lithograph in larger numbers once the initial fifty were distributed. A census of copies would be interesting today: if in fact only 50 copies were printed, natural wear and loss would reduce the quantity to a handful, making the Interior of a Native Village one of the more rare New Zealand prints.

Full Catalogue Description of the print from Early Prints of New Zealand

Interior of a native village or "Pa", in New Zealand,/situated near the town of Petre, at Wanganui, one of the New Zealand Company's settlements in Cook's Straits, Northern Island,/the figures in the foreground are all portraits, and the original picture (now in London) was painted on the spot./ . . . F.G. Moore, Late of New Zealand, now of 30 Arundel Street Strand. J.A. Gilfillan, M.A. pinxt. — E. Walker, lithr. Day & Son, lithrs. to the Queen. The original picture in the possession of F.G. Moore, 30 Arundel St. Strand. "Proof [1852?] 48.1 x 63.8cm
lithograph in colour, handfinished.

[The print was reproduced by Avon Fine Prints Ltd, Christchurch, 1969 in an edition limited to 1000 copies, NZ Fine Prints have a handful of prints from this later edition available for purchase].

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Sam Hunt's poem “Beware The Man” Painted by Dick Frizzell

One of many new prints in the latest series of reproductions of paintings and editions by Dick Frizzell “Beware the Man” is an unusual collaboration with the popular NZ poet Sam Hunt. Hunt’s poem was written over 40 years ago (you can listen to Hunt recite the poem in a concert with NZ rock band "Mammal" here on YouTube), the words have changed a little over time if you listen carefully and compare it to the text in Frizzell's 2011 painting.

In appearance the painting is similar to the work of Colin McCahon but with a secular rather than religious theme.  Dick says the idea behind the painting came about when three years ago "an advertising agency had the bright idea of getting me to paint a Sam Hunt poem for a campaign they were working on. The advertisement never happened but by then Sam and I were away on our own trajectory. "Beware the Man" is one of Sam's most popular poems. I modelled the lettering and the colours on a 'Trespassers Beware' sign I photographed up in Northland. The bits of red reflector tape around the edges seemed to add an appropriate drama to the poem's message!".

Sam Hunt’s “Beware the Man” by Dick Frizzell
Beware the Man. Poem by Sam Hunt, painted by Dick Frizzell.
Released as a print today (available for sale here), printed using the giclee process for dense blacks and extremely long life colour.