If you have ever walked The Strip in Las Vegas, explored the Old Town of Key West or caught a movie at the Isis Theatre in Aspen, it’s likely you have seen the impressive photography galleries of Peter Lik. Bold, large format prints and galleries with exotic wood floors, trendy furniture and perfect lighting catch the passersby’s attention. With galleries in hot locations around the USA, Peter Lik has done what most photographers only dream of. Boasting over $700 million in all time landscape photography print sales, 4 of the top 20 most expensive photographs ever sold and his own luxury real estate company, Peter Lik is at the top of his game. Who is the man behind this photography empire, and what has enabled Peter Lik to do so well in a market that many others struggle in? In this article we will discuss:
- Who is Peter Lik?
- What Makes Lik's Prints Appear Backlit?
- Controversy Surrounding Peter Lik.
- Should You Buy a Peter Lik Print?
- Lik Alternatives in the Marketplace Today.
Who is Peter Lik?
Peter Lik was born in Australia in 1959. At only 8 years old, he used a Kodak Brownie camera to capture his first photograph, a spiderweb in his family’s garden. He continued taking photos on family vacations and road trips with friends and discovered a passion for the artistic side of photography. In 1984, Lik traveled to the United States for the first time and spent a year driving around and photographing in an old van. While in the USA, Lik discovered the panoramic format camera that he is now so well known for. Later that same year, Lik sold his first photograph to a calendar company in San Francisco and began his journey in the world of professional photography. He continued traveling extensively and photographing lesser known areas around the USA and Australia throughout the 80’s and 90’s, which led him to open his first gallery in Cairns in 1997. Lik had always wanted to move to the USA full time, and in 2001 he took the plunge and opened a new gallery in San Francisco. This gallery struggled and ultimately closed, but after a visit to Hawaii he opened his first successful gallery in Lahaina, Maui.
Peter Lik’s Photography Career
The success of Peter's Maui gallery was a turning point in Lik’s business career, causing demand for his work to soar. By 2010 he not only had multiple US based galleries but also started to focus on single edition photographs for high net worth collectors. His photo “One” sold for $1 million dollars in 2010, followed by the record-breaking sale of “Phantom” for $6.5 million dollars in 2014. Peter was not well known to the general public at this time, but after the Weather Channel produced the TV show “From the Edge” starring Lik his popularity increased dramatically. Fast forward to 2020 and Lik now has 14 USA galleries, his own production facility in Las Vegas and has sold over $700 million in photo prints. Still traveling up to 3 months each year and adding new photographs to his massive portfolio, Lik is showing no signs of slowing down.
Peter Lik’s Portfolio
Lik’s work itself is quite different than the photographs that typically captivate the high-end art world. To describe his work briefly, his images are bold, colorful, scenic and appeal to the masses. Many images are of recognizable landmarks, which tourists visiting his galleries connect with from past experiences. One does not need an art history degree to appreciate the work of Peter Lik, which is likely why he does so well. People feel nostalgia for places they have visited, or want to visit, and that drives sales.
Some of Lik’s most famous images include:
- "Phantom" - A photo of a slot canyon with a light beam shining through taken in Antelope Canyon, Arizona.
- "The One" - A photo of the reflection of trees in water during peak autumn color.
- "Tree of Life" - A photo of a Japanese Maple tree bursting with full fall colors.
- "Beneath the Sun" - A photo of the Grand Canyon & Colorado river taken at Toroweap Lookout.
- "Island Hideaway" - A photo of palm tree shadows over Lanikai beach in Oahu.
What Camera Does Peter Lik Use?
After visiting a Peter Lik gallery, many people wonder how he makes his images look backlit and three dimensional. Is it the camera? The printing method? Lighting? It is actually a combination of these elements that create the signature look. Lik has used many cameras in his career, but most often the Linhoff Technorama 6x17, Phase One, Nikon D800E and Nikon D850. These are quite popular cameras, each in a different timeframe. Available to the public, they are expensive but in reach for most photographers.
How Does Peter Lik Achieve the "Backlit" Look?
After capture, Lik (or his team of retouchers) post processes the images to enhance color, contrast and light using Adobe Photoshop and similar programs. Afterward, the images are readied for printing. Using lightjet printers and a true photographic printing process, Lik’s team produces the final images on Fujiflex Pearl and similar papers which are then facemounted to crystal-clear acrylic sheets. The back of the prints also utilize an acrylic or comatex backing, and then are either framed or given a frameless hanger. When displayed in a Lik gallery, the images are lit from above by several bright MR16 halogen bulbs to bring out the 3D backlit effect. In short, they are not backlit, but the materials and display method create a look that make it seem as though it is.
Peter Lik Art Galleries
Lik galleries differ from most art galleries and boutiques in several ways. Rather than the typical white walls, quiet contemplative atmosphere and aloof consultants, Lik’s galleries are in-your-face with bold lighting, huge prints, rock music and sales personnel that do not shy away from pushing a sale. Although unheard of in traditional gallery settings, it has proven to be a highly effective method for Lik. Currently, Lik has the following 14 physical gallery locations:
- Lik Gallery - Aspen, Colorado
- Lik Gallery - Caesars, Las Vegas, Nevada
- Lik Gallery - Chicago, Illinois
- Lik Gallery - The Forum, Las Vegas, Nevada
- Lik Gallery - Key West, Florida
- Lik Gallery - Lahaina, Maui
- Lik Gallery - La Jolla, California
- Lik Gallery - Madison Avenue, New York, New York
- Lik Gallery - Mandalay, Las Vegas, Nevada
- Lik Gallery - Miami, Florida
- Lik Gallery - Soho, New York, New York
- Lik Gallery - The Venetian, Las Vegas, Nevada
- Lik Gallery - Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii
- Lik Gallery - Washington, D.C.
The Peter Lik Controversy
Like his unorthodox galleries, Peter Lik is known for his unapologetically confident and boastful personality. Perhaps because of this, he has been a source of controversy in both the fine art world and beyond. Most notably, the New York Times published an in-depth interview and short biographical article in 2015 that contained several contentious statements by Lik, such as, “If you’re in Caesars Palace, you’re no joke, that was a huge turning point. I’m in Caesars. I’m God. Nailed it.” This statement alone was fodder for photographers to argue over for months, if not years. Although not exactly humble, Lik has certainly backed up his boasts with an undeniable amount of success. Nonetheless, his single edition photo sales, such as “Phantom,” have come under scrutiny from the art world. Generally, high dollar sales are facilitated by an auction house or broker and are verifiable. None of Peter Lik’s sales have occurred in this manner, leading many to believe that it is simply another marketing tactic to generate interest in the Lik brand.
Should You Buy a Lik Print?
Collecting art is typically approached from several angles. Often, art is purchased as an investment that is expected to appreciate in value. Alternatively, art may be acquired because the collector connects with the piece and finds it beautiful, unique or otherwise compelling. There are no right or wrong answers, it just depends on what your intention is. Lik’s limited edition work is usually sold in editions of 950, plus several artist proof prints. This is not exactly “limited edition” in the sense of rarity, but it is good for Lik’s sales volume. Lik prints start at around $3,700 for the smallest limited edition, unframed size. As the size increases, the price follows suit. When the edition begins to sell, the pricing model follows a tiered structure; essentially, as more prints sell the higher the price gets. The final images in an edition may sell for upwards of $80,000. With that in mind, if you are taken with an image of Lik’s and have the financial wherewithal to afford it, buy it!
There are many collectors that own several Lik prints. One thing to consider if you plan on purchasing a Lik print as an appreciating asset is that the secondary market is unlikely to pay more than what you paid. In fact, it is likely the print would fetch far less on the secondary art market than the initial investment. Artbrokerage.com is a common broker for the secondary market, and at the time of this writing over 1,600 Lik prints were listed for sale (far more than any other artist). That vast majority of these are listed at (and sell at), prices far less than their initial purchase price at a Lik gallery. This is not necessarily a reason to avoid purchasing a Lik print, but clearly they are not a reliably appreciable asset.
Lik Alternatives in the Marketplace Today
In today’s digital world, physical commercial art galleries are on the decline. It is not uncommon to see galleries shuttered, as people spend more time making purchases online. There are still holdouts in tourist cities (such as Lik’s home, Las Vegas) and small towns across the USA, but not like the large number in years gone by. There are many alternatives to Lik prints on the market today, and most can be found online. When searching for comparable art, it is crucial that the collector verifies the materials, quality and service prior to making an investment. One significant benefit to purchasing online is the elimination of gallery overhead. This can often provide up to a 50% savings with no reduction in quality. The wide range of art options online can be confusing, but typically you will find more unique high end, limited edition prints on individual artist websites versus large resellers.
The Lik Look for Less | Max Foster Fine Art Photography
As a professional landscape photographer, I have always been focused on quality. My primary goal is to provide collectors incredibly detailed images with the highest quality materials available today. My Lumachrome facemounted acrylic prints offer the widest color gamut, sharpest detail and most three-dimensional look on the market. When combined with optically clear or Trulife acrylic, my prints offer the same backlit style as Lik, and at a much more approachable price point. My limited editions are produced in quantities of 50 and 100, versus the 950 that Lik offers. If you are looking for a unique image from a place you have fond memories of or are dreaming of traveling to, I encourage you to search my galleries. I am confident that our world class customer service and beautiful imagery will exceed your expectations at every step along the way.