This article discusses buying indigenous Australian art ethically. If you’re looking to buy Aboriginal paintings, it’s important to do so ethically and with full knowledge of your purchase. The art market is flooded with dubious purchasing tactics, barter trades, underpaying and chunky operators who prey upon artists in remote communities. This article will help guide you toward the most ethical way of buying Aboriginal art by teaching you how to spot bad operators and avoid being taken advantage of by unethical dealers and galleries.
Dubious purchasing tactics
Aboriginal art has been traded for decades and has become big business. Many dealers have found ways to make a profit at the expense of Aboriginal artists, who can be subject to unscrupulous practices.
Barter trades. Some galleries might offer goods or services in exchange for works of art, but this practice is illegal under Australian law due to concerns that it could lead to corruption and fraud.
Underpaying. According to the UNDRIP (which is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), indigenous people should receive “adequate compensation” when their cultural heritage is exploited commercially. This includes selling traditional designs for souvenirs like mugs and tea towels.
Chunky operators. These are fake Aboriginal art dealers who cheat consumers by passing off cheap knockoffs as authentic pieces from remote locations like Arnhem Land or Pintupi country (the Western Desert).
Do your research before buying art
Before you buy an indigenous art piece, make sure you’re getting it from an accredited artist. One way to do that is to contact your local arts council, or even better, the artist’s community.
To ensure that your purchase supports local artists, make sure they are from the region where they live and work. If you’re buying from a remote area, this can be difficult since those communities don’t always have access to the Internet or other means of communication with people outside their area.
If possible, try looking for artwork by artists who belong to the same clan as their ancestors or language group (known as kinship in Australia). This ensures that your money goes directly back into supporting those traditions and practices rather than helping other regions or clans flourish at their expense.
Find out the artist’s Indigenous Art Code accreditation status
It is important to establish whether or not an Indigenous artist has been accredited by their relevant Indigenous art code. The Indigenous Art Code accreditation status of an artist is a sign of good practice because they are held accountable to a code of conduct and undergo regular auditing by independent parties.
This means that when you purchase art from an accredited artist, you can be confident that your money will go towards supporting them directly, rather than towards fees and commissions charged by middlemen who may be reluctant to share information about where your money goes. Community arts centres are the gold standard for ethical purchases of Indigenous Australian art.
The best way to ensure that you are buying local Indigenous Australian art ethically is to purchase it from a community arts centre. They offer the most benefits for both artists and buyers, as well as for the environment and economy of Aboriginal communities.
Maccas protect remote communities from exploitation
The mobile art centre, or ‘maccas’ for short, is a great way to buy Aboriginal paintings from remote communities. The project provides artists with a venue and workshop where they can produce their artwork, and then sell it to visitors from all over the world. It also works as an employment opportunity for local people who want to work alongside craftsmen and women in combining traditional techniques with contemporary styles.