Selling the Dream

This exhibition is no longer on display at the Museum.

Back for a limited time only, Selling the Dream: Classic New Zealand Tourism Posters a retro exhibition of original classic New Zealand tourism posters created by leading commercial artists between the 1920s and 1960s.

Extremely popular when it debuted at the Museum in December 2014, the exhibition has toured New Zealand venues in the last two years and will have a two-month run at Canterbury Museum before opening at Waikato Museum in March/April.

The exhibition features some of the finest graphic art ever produced in New Zealand. Sourced from private collections, these posters were critical in promoting New Zealand tourism before the advent of high-quality colour photography and automated large-scale printing.

In an age before television and the internet, posters on billboards, in railway stations and on buildings in towns and cities throughout New Zealand were the mainstay of advertising.

In the early twentieth century, their popularity and success in selling the dream of the country’s landscape and its numerous attractions to New Zealanders and international travellers was made possible by new technologies and central Government support.

New printing processes, including lithography and screen-printing saw the introduction of illustrations and colour in popular publications. Posters promoting theatrical performances and commercial items were increasingly visible from the early 1900s, reaching their golden age in the 1930s.

The exhibition features a series of short interviews and a 15 minute documentary Graphic Wonderland which explore the art, skills and techniques of commercial artists during the period. The documentary also goes behind the scenes of the industry with fascinating footage illustrating the work of commercial studios including the National Publicity Studios and Railways Studios.

New Zealand sought to compete with the best tourist attractions in the world by highlighting the splendour of Milford Sound and the magic of the thermal wonderland of Rotorua to attract tourists. Working for the Tourist and Railways Departments, artists like Leonard Mitchell and Marcus King created popular and inspired images of the landscape that captured the hearts and minds of its people.

An idealised New Zealand was portrayed in vivid colours, perfect composition and iconic images which appealed the traveller’s dream of adventure in an island paradise.

Although New Zealand’s first tourist guidebook was published in 1882, the tourism industry only started in 1901 when the Government established the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts. Prime Minister, Richard John Seddon, was influential in this decision overseeing a period of prosperity that also encouraged New Zealanders to take pride in their country and its land. 

This exhibition is no longer on display at the Museum.
19 November 2016 – 7 February 2017
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