Why art collectors love New Zealand artist Michael Smither

  • 21 November 2022
  • Faye Saunders

The Coromandel Peninsula is home to one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed artists, Michael Smither. One of his works recently broke auction records for a living New Zealand painter. We profile this leading artist, represented locally by (what we consider to be) two of the best Coromandel art galleries, the Little Gallery Tairua and Whangamata.  

Born in New Plymouth (1939), Michael Duncan Smither, attended Elam Art School in Auckland before returning to Taranaki in the early 1960’s. Here this New Zealand painter, printmaker and musician became a founding member of 'Group 60', a collective of Taranaki artists founded by Don Driver.

The rugged beauty of the Taranaki coast and towering Mount Taranaki have been recurring themes in Smither’s work. Seagulls, rockpools, crayfish pots and stormy clouds have all been given the surreal Smither treatment. Appealing to the eye with bold, contrasting colours and shapes, his often-geometric landscapes are contrasted by slice of life paintings like ‘Children at Breakfast’, ‘Lone Ranger’ or ‘Family in the van’, all imbued with a powerful sense of observation.

Smither’s mentors included his screen printer father Bill, whom he worked alongside in his basement studio for nearly 15 years. Together they produced around 250 different screen prints, only interrupted by Bill’s death in 1985. Several years passed before Michael resumed screen printing, this time working the screen himself until harmful print toxins forced him to relinquish his hands-on involvement.

Early screen-printed works were sold without signatures for under $6 each because printmaking in the 1960’s was dismissed as a lowbrow "art" form. It was only later that signed editions began.

With early original works today selling in excess of NZ$250,000, Michael Smither is one of New Zealand's most prodigious and talented artists. Serious New Zealand art collectors would target a Michael Smither original or limited-edition screen print in their ‘best investment art New Zealand’ portfolio.

Smither's painting "Sea Wall and Kingfisher" set a record price for a living New Zealand artist when it sold for $342,000 at auction in Auckland a few years ago.  However his painting "Two Rock Pools" sold under the hammer for $516,000 recently, breaking his own previous record! 

After a sixty-year career as one of Aotearoa's leading painters, The Little Gallery Tairua, Whangamata is proud to represent the outstanding work of Michael Smither, a Coromandel resident and a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2004) for his services to art. Smither’s large body of work is held up alongside the greats of New Zealand landscape art and culture.

You too can own and enjoy a Michael Smither limited edition screen print for as little as $400. Browse the Little Gallery collection of the artist’s work here and get in touch if you would like to buy one. Pictured here is The Old Ferry Boat - the old Whitianga Ferry before it was decommissioned.


As one of the top Coromandel attractions for art, the Little Gallery showcases the work of over 50 local and leading  New Zealand artists. So if you’re seeking that special piece of art, drop into either the Little Gallery Tairua or Whangamata for a browse.

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