Peter Lik’s Recipe for Success: Sell Prints. Print Money.
Peter Lik is in awe of himself. When he describes his career as a fine-art photographer, he speaks with the satisfaction of a guy who has performed miracles, at the pace of a bystander who just caught a glimpse of Superman. The words tumble forth in self-exalting, run-on sentences, most of them laced with profanity, all of them in the sunny, chummy accent of his native Australia.“I’m the world’s most famous photographer, most sought-after photographer, most awarded photographer,” he said one recent afternoon, sipping a can of Red Bull in a conference room at Peter Lik USA, a 100,000-square-foot headquarters in Las Vegas devoted solely to the production and sale of Peter Lik photography. “So I said” — and what Mr. Lik said next is an unprintable version of “the heck with it,” and then — “I want to make something special, special, special, special.”That something special was a photograph called “Phantom,” an image of an eerily human-shaped swirl of dust in Antelope Canyon in Arizona. In December, his company announced in a news release that an anonymous collector had spent $6.5 million for “Phantom.” That crushed the previous record, held by Andreas Gursky, whose “Rhein II” fetched $4.3 million at an auction in 2011, and Cindy Sherman, whose “Untitled #96” brought $3.9 million at another auction the same year.
HT: The Conglomerate:But Mr. Gursky and Ms. Sherman are titans, with solo shows in pre-eminent museums.Who is Peter Lik?It irks him a little that you have to ask. Because by one measure — money — Mr. Lik may well be the most successful fine-art photographer who ever lived. He has sold $440 million worth of prints, according to his chief financial officer, in 15 galleries in the United States that he owns and that sell his work. The images are mostly panoramic shots of trees, sky, lakes, deserts and blue water in supersaturated colors. Generally speaking, his buyers are not people who acquire the art of Andreas Gursky and Cindy Sherman.Which is just one reason that Mr. Lik considers himself an artist working outside a system established by elitist tastemakers. And while he says he doesn’t mind being snubbed by the establishment, part of him is bothered that his renown has lagged woefully behind his level of financial success.So six months ago, he had an idea. Nearly every Peter Lik photograph is printed in a “limited edition” of 995; the first print sells at about $4,000, with the price rising as the edition sells out. With his eye fixed on a record-setting sale, he printed a single copy of “Phantom.” Then he alerted a handful of his most ardent collectors, one of whom, he said, agreed to the $6.5 million price. Before the deal was signed, Mr. Lik hired a public relations firm to make sure that the sale, and the record, were noticed....MORE
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