It used to be a place to get a feed after a night on the town - now a building in Whanganui's Guyton St could be home to a lithography press.

Visual artist Anthony Davies and his wife Andrea du Chatenier have bought the two-storey building. Mr Davies is renovating it.

An internationally known printmaker, he has a special fondness for lithographic printmaking - a long and difficult process regarded as rather old fashioned now.

He said Whanganui used to be known as a centre for printmaking. He was worried when UCOL closed its printmaking studio, which had a "very, very expensive" lithography press from the United States.


"What I didn't want to see was that press going out of Whanganui."

The Whanganui Community Arts Centre Trust is negotiating with UCOL for the press. Mr Davies hopes to house it in the bottom storey of the building, with a viewing area on the street front.

The upper storey will become a flat, which the pair can rent to get income.

The building needs a lot of work. The roof, electrics and plumbing alone will cost about $60,000, he said. He's not worrying about earthquake strengthening.

He anticipates working hard six or seven days a week in the print workshop, and said his lifetime work as an artist was coming together. He's nearly 70, and wants to do something "quite big".

Mr Davies spent 11 years in Northern Ireland, and his work is social and political - not comfortable viewing. In the words of Tana Umaga, he said "I'm not here to play tiddlywinks".

He may also use the Guyton St building to hold printmaking workshops, and said it could even become a place for international printmakers' exchanges, with the artist living upstairs.

The place was once the home of the Steakout burger bar, open from late afternoon until the early hours of the morning.

"If you came out of a nightclub and you had a skin full of drink, this was the place to go to," Mr Davies said.