2014 - Art Print Market Review

Year of the Bird in NZ Art

2014 was the year of the bird in NZ prints.  The re-issued Native Birds of New Zealand poster nearly outsold "Mickey to Tiki", re-printed colour plates from Buller's Birds sold briskly alongside a menagerie of avian art from contemporary NZ artists.  Tui are definitely the new Nikau! And by the end of the year another big trend was shaping up - the circular print.  Yes, round is going to be a thing in 2015 - there were even artists so on trend they combined both with round prints of birds!
Native Birds of NZ

Publication News

The other exciting new prints published over 2014 included the first new print of a classic abstract Koru painting by Gordon Walters for a decade, the ongoing re-release of NZ's most popular artist Dick Frizzell's back catalogue as open edition prints, the expansion of the number of re-prints of genuine vintage posters alongside a huge number of new limited editions by NZ artists, especially the stunning work of veteran artist Michael Smither.  We also saw new prints of paintings by blue chip NZ artists like Hammond, Hotere and McCahon.  In 2013's art market review we said that tiki were going to evolve further and they certainly have, it's such an exciting area of NZ art we have now created a tiki category that numbered just on fifty different prints by the end of 2014.


The word picture/bus blind/eye chart has collapsed into a custom printed word association game that shows off the customisation potential of digital printing - editions of one for Kev & Julie's Wedding etc - think of 10 words and make sure you spell the names right. There are some good business models for printers in this now but the mainstream publishers are all saying that the place names bus blind and eye chart style typographical print has run its course.

One other change we have noticed is how remixed vintage style images are replacing straight photographic souvenirs like postcards. And yes, we are still waiting for the great NZ photography range to replace the stalwart poster selection published by Craig Potton Publishing a very long time ago.

Street art went mainstream in 2014, the market for Banksy prints and posters was by the end of the year a free-for-all, even the Warehouse imported some particularly grainy posters to flog through their daily deals site using our high quality offset prints (at the not exactly exorbitant $39.95) as the "why pay this much" tag.  The answer is of course that you get what you pay for, good quality paper stock, long life ink and perfect colour fidelity.  And in the case of some prints we saw, no pixelation either!  Over the Xmas holidays this writer even spotted an already discarded derivative canvas graffiti art style print in a provincial second hand shop, cast off with the speed of a poster of last year's boy band.  Great for business if people turn over their artworks so quickly, but we genuinely think the best value is purchasing an artwork that you will love for decades, the cost per view is quite high even if it's a cheap print if you buy something that can't sustain your interest much beyond the initial viewing.

What's in Store for 2015?

We think one of the artists to watch in 2015 will be Glenn Jones, he's pushing kiwiana in new directions and has quickly built up good distribution for his artwork through stores.  Jason Kelly is now on the same production train as Dick Frizzell, it would be great to see his previous success revisited as his "Kiwi As" series struck a chord with nearly everyone without looking like "made for tourists" kiwiana.

Propaganda Poster
The 100th Anzac day could be the catalyst for sales of vintage war posters, recruitment posters and propaganda posters.  But whether they should be promoted beyond the walls of the social studies department is an interesting debate.

Custom printing of reproduction prints will be on the rise in 2015 but still faces issues around copyright, royalties, unit costs and complexity at the customer end. The expectation we hear from some of our customers is that the print retailer can simply print images off the internet, asking could they buy, for example Banksy's "Girl with Balloons" with the background wall on canvas one metre square. Although technically possible to print reproductions of art works on demand like this publishers still carry stock in standard sizes as the work involved in printing a single image still makes a print run of 10 more economically feasible because the set up times are averaged across more than one print.  In the case of the Banksy prints and posters we are still ordering physical stock from publishers in the UK that is air freighted to NZ at a price lower than custom printing here in NZ.

Large print runs done offset will continue to be a better value proposition than bespoke printing for reproductions for popular artists and famous paintings.  Local publishers using giclee or inkjet printing still backorder retail orders until they can print a batch of the same image and size if possible.

What we'd love to see in 2015? Some great new prints featuring NZ's favourite sports!  Like finding the perfect view of Christchurch (unlike Auckland with Rangitoto or Wellington's hillsides of wooden houses) this has been attempted a few times (for instance David John's "Changing Room" series of Julia Drake's "not quite the All Blacks" prints around the time of the 2008 World Cup).  But for a country passionate about sport we have pretty much had to make do with just alcohol sponsored free posters of rugby teams or those framed jerseys that end up in the back of the wardrobe after the school fundraiser for too long.   Our art should reflect what we care about and although sport resonates with New Zealanders there are simply not enough artworks that celebrate our sporting traditions to meet demand.

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