30 Years of Kick-Starting Kids’ Art Collections

Published: Mon 14 Nov 2016 11:51 AM
Muka Youth Prints Celebrates 30 Years of Kick-Starting Kids’ Art Collections
After 30 extraordinary years, Muka Youth Prints is hitting the road once again to introduce thousands of Kiwi kids to the joy of art collecting.
Started by Muka owners, husband and wife team Frans Baetens and Magda Van Gils, the annual exhibition is New Zealand’s longest-running art project and has expanded beyond these shores to The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Germany.
Since its inception in 1987, thousands of children and teens have visited the shows and chosen art works without knowing who the artist was and without parental input.
“The magic value of art cannot be expressed in money,” say Frans and Magda. “We want budding art collectors to look at and appreciate the work itself, not consider the fame of the artist or future financial gain. Muka Youth Prints allow young people to collect real works of art at a reasonable cost.”
The unframed prints, which have the artists’ signatures covered, cost $70, with a special Muka frame available for another $70. The name of the artist is only revealed after purchase and pick-up. No mobile phones or cameras are allowed, the young visitors aged five to 18 can only enter once and choose no more than three works. Adults must wait outside.
“Muka Youth Prints is about the love of art and the excitement of being able to own a work of your own. Some children go for animals, flowers and trees while others prefer abstract works. It’s fascinating to see what they choose and also how the tastes of our return visitors change over the years,” says Frans and Magda.
After arriving in Auckland in 1983 from Belgium, the couple started Muka lithographic printmaking studio and gallery in their Grey Lynn home. Muka Youth Prints followed in 1987 after they saw how interested their 13 and 14-year-old daughters Saskia and Dominiek were in their parents’ work at an art-printing workshop. The first exhibition in Auckland was so successful, it rapidly evolved into the worldwide phenomenon it is today.
More than 60,000 prints have been sold in the past 30 years, with 165 prominent New Zealand and international artists contributing their work, including the likes of Gretchen Albrecht, Fatu Feu’u, Dick and Otis Frizzell, Fiona Pardington, Seraphine Pick, John Reynolds and Michael Smither. Frans and his daughter Saskia have also had works in the show.
Each artist has been invited to produce a set of small 100mm by 20mm original lithographs in their normal style.
To give the adults something to do while their young ones are viewing the show, Muka lets the grown-ups vote for one of three prints which is then donated to the hosting gallery.
If anyone can’t attend the exhibition, Muka Gallery has many other prints that are available for sale to adults, including thousands of full-size works by the same artists that have contributed to Youth Prints over the years. The Youth Prints are never for sale to adults, and are kept in a special “adult free zone” at Muka gallery where anyone under 19 years old can browse and buy them throughout the year.
The 2016 Muka Youth Prints exhibition will visit:
Wellington, Capital E, Queen’s Wharf, Saturday and Sunday 19 & 20 November
Lower Hutt, Dowse Art Museum, Monday and Tuesday 21 & 22 November
New Plymouth, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Friday 25 November
Whanganui, Sarjeant Gallery, Saturday 26 November
Auckland, Auckland Art Gallery, Saturday and Sunday, 3 & 4 December
Howick, Uxbridge Arts Centre, Friday and Saturday, 9 & 10 December

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