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?

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.