Australian Traveller

How to buy Indigenous art ethically and responsibl­y


Researchin­g and buying Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander art is a joy, whether you are a serious collector or a complete novice. The colours, patterns and cultural significan­ce contained in everything from bark panels to large-format canvases to weavings and carvings are reflective of ancient traditions passed down through millennia, as well as the particular stories and experience­s of the artists who render them. Buying Indigenous art in an ethical and responsibl­e way not only pays respect to the significan­ce of this ancient form – said to be ‘Australia’s greatest cultural gift to the world’ – and the talent and truths of the artists themselves, but it also assists with positive and lasting economic and social outcomes. For this reason the Indigenous Art Code was developed to preserve and promote ethical trading in Indigenous art.The code outlines establishe­d standards for dealings between dealers and Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander artists to ensure fair and ethical trade in art, transparen­cy in the promotion and sale of artworks, and that disputes are dealt with fairly.

Whether you are buying from a gallery, at auction or from a dealer, the Code advises you ask lots of questions, including: who the artist is; where the artist is from; how the seller acquired the artwork or product; how the artist was paid for their work; how are royalties or licensing fees paid to the artist in the case of reproducti­ons; and, importantl­y, is the gallery a member of the Indigenous Art Code? If the answer to this last question is yes, then you know that it has agreed to follow the Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct. Of course, buying direct from artists, by visiting Indigenous owned and operated Art Centres or attending ethical events like Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF), is possibly the best way to learn about and acquire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, allowing you to form a relationsh­ip with the artists themselves and better understand not only the art form but the stories and experience imbued in the pieces being generously offered for sale. indigenous­

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