As the Christmas gift-buying season approaches, we believe it's essential to highlight the significance of ethical Indigenous art purchases. While buying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art makes for wonderful gifts, up to 80% of 'Aboriginal-style' arts and crafts in the market are inauthentic or counterfeit.
Venturing into the realm of acquiring authentic Indigenous art can feel like navigating a labyrinth, especially with unethical practices and the mistreatment of artists are well-known issues in the industry. How can you be sure that the artwork you’re eyeing has been crafted and distributed with integrity? How do you unravel the mysteries behind its creator, its significance, and whether the artist received a fair and just compensation?
We suggest you begin your journey by exploring the art originating from Indigenous-owned and operated Art centres and organisations. These establishments have a clear-cut mission: to nurture the ethical creation and dissemination of Indigenous art. Beyond that, they serve as thriving hubs for opportunities, training, and career advancement for practising Aboriginal artists and arts professionals. In their unique role, Art Centres act as bridges, connecting artists with galleries, museums, and institutions.
Indigenous Art Code (IartC) has made it easier to find ethical businesses that deal with the sale of Aboriginal artwork. Aboriginal Art Co is a proud Dealer Member of the Indigenous Art Code. It is important to note that Dealer Members can be non-Indigenous galleries and businesses too. Being a member shows commitment from businesses, art dealers, art centres, and galleries to ensure fair and ethical practices in their interactions with Indigenous artists.
Stephanie Parkin, Chair of the Indigenous Art Code and former Board member of Aboriginal Art Co, emphasises the role consumers play in ensuring the fair and ethical treatment of artists. She encourages potential buyers to pose questions like ‘Who is the artist?,’ ‘Where does the artist originate from?,’ and ‘How does the artist receive compensation?’. Stephanie stresses that ethical art purchases are not just about safeguarding your investment; they are about showing respect and ensuring fair treatment for artists. Furthermore, for artwork purchases exceeding $250, you should expect to receive a Certificate of Authenticity (CoA) from an Art Centre.
While many art centres do indeed sell directly to the public, they are often nestled in remote areas. As a result, they frequently forge partnerships with reputable urban galleries, which possess the resources and expertise needed to effectively showcase and market the artwork. It’s our steadfast commitment to ethical practices that drives us to exclusively stock and collaborate with art centres that uphold these principles, ensuring authenticity at every step.
Aboriginal Art Co also have works available by independent Aboriginal artists too. We have an established network of artists that stock with us. Often our team knows their family and where they are from. As blackfellas ourselves, we are community-minded, conscious of our complex histories and sensitive to issues that affect Aboriginal communities across the country. We don’t pretend to know everything and everyone, but we can sense if artist or business aren’t genuine, and our vetting process is quite thorough for independent artists who aren’t Indigenous Art Code members.
Our mission revolves around empowerment, both for the artists and the consumers. We offer a transparent ethical option, presenting authentic art and quality products that directly contribute to the well-being of the creators. Here in Brisbane, we function as a central nexus, facilitating connections between individuals and the rich tapestry of genuine Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander products and experiences.
In the months ahead, we’ll shine a spotlight on some of the ethical artworks in our inventory, plus share feature stories about the artists who are exhibiting with us. Come along on this exciting journey of championing genuine Indigenous art—it’s an adventure well worth embarking upon.
Above Image: Image courtesy of Tourism Australia, 2021.
Below Image: Image courtesy of Tourism Australia, 2021.