Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Selling the Dream: The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism

Ron Brownson, Senior Curator, New Zealand and Pacific Art at the Auckland Art Gallery writes about this stunning book, one of the great coffe table books published in NZ this year.

Leonard Mitchell, New Zealand Centennial exhibition 1939

Selling the Dream: The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism is an ambitiously scaled book. I don't think there is any previous local publication which has comprehensively profiled the conversation between art, illustration and tourism. It shows our art history has avoided the mix between fine art, commercial art and trade development.

Simply put, this book overviews how tourism has been promoted through visual illustration. All the artwork is connected with marketing New Zealand as a venue for national and international tourism.

Stanley Davis, Time 1931

Decades ago many of New Zealand's towns and cities were connected by rail travel. It was our primary means of travel between the regions. The car took over by the mid 1950s and by the late 1960s air-travel became a preferred method of transportation. Rail was king first, though.

The Railways Department had its own Wellington-based art studio. Some of our most best illustrators produced railway banners, travel posters and booklets. Segueing with Railways was the National Publicity Studio developed to work across Government Departments by providing visual material fostering local travel. Railways had first started this notion by promoting tourism in the form of excursions and short-term holidays.

Peter Read, Carefree Holidays c1955
The twelve essays in this book are illuminating. They do not regurgitate earlier research and present a fresh take. Each essay addresses a theme. In thinking about some of the essays I was impressed with how Margaret McClure looks at how tourism developed in tandem with publicity. She shows the effects that aviation had on tourism.

David Pollack evaluates how travel posters related to the international illustration tradition. No one working here had the vision of A.M. Cassandre, Edward McKnight Kauffer or Paul Nash. Their innovative work transformed European travel imagery by inserting the lessons they gained from modern art. In contradistinction, our travel poster artists were visually conservative and much of their work utilises the style of magazine illustration.

Railways Studios, Timaru by the Sea 1936

Richard Wolfe profiles the intermeshing between posters, stamp and booklet design as a way to promote ‘Māoriland’ to a country that was also deemed to be a ‘Playground of the Pacific’. It is fascinating to see how nation's self-branding is reduced to strap lines intended to shape visitor experience. 

Full review here

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