MEET THE ART DEALER
Karl Bajzik, co-owner of Yubu Napa, has been selling Aboriginal art for a decade. The gallery is hung with both traditional art (ancestral “documents” told in dots and iconography) and the expressive art increasingly practised by younger Aboriginal artists.
What’s your connection with Aboriginal art? I grew up in an Aboriginal community near Katherine and spent some time in Aboriginal education. My partner,
Ric Farmer, who used to work in one of the big studio sheds, saw artists working in terrible conditions and getting paid a fraction of their worth. We got together and thought, “We can do better than this.” You call Yubu Napa an “ethical gallery”. What does that mean? It’s about transparency and being fair to both the artist and art buyer. We pay our artists 30 per cent of an agreed sale price when they complete a canvas and then a further 20 per cent when it sells. So it’s an income. In the studio today, we have Andrea Adamson, who’s travelled from the Amata community [in South Australia] to visit her mother in Alice Springs Hospital. Our arrangement means she’s able to earn for the month that she’s in town. What advice do you have for people looking to buy Aboriginal art? Shop ethically. Research the gallery and the studio and make sure artists are safeguarded. Don’t buy on impulse; go home, think about it and study the artist online. And be aware of quality, because studios provide artists with different materials. Are the paints watered down? If you’re paying a lot, are the canvases good Belgian linen? You represent about 100 local artists. Where are they based? Many come from desert communities. But when we say “local artists”, we’re talking a 1500-kilometre-wide circle around Alice. That’s Alice Springs for you – 1500 kilometres is considered local!
Karl Bajzik, co-owner of the Yubu Napa gallery (top left); artworks in progress by Lola Nampitjinpa Brown (above left) and Andrea Adamson