Information For Consumers
In this information sheet:
- The importance of Indigenous arts to heritage
- Indigenous art centres, co-operatives, reputable dealers and authenticity
- Travelling to Indigenous art centres in remote areas
- Wholesale purchases
- Buying Indigenous art in urban and regional areas
- Documents which indicate the source of the work
- Resources for consumers
Indigenous art is an important part of Indigenous people's heritage. The making of fake Indigenous may be offensive to Indigenous. Further, all artists have the right to economic benefits from their work. Buying fake Indigenous artwork takes an opportunity away from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist to financially benefit from their cultural expression.
There are so many fakes on the market, it is vital that consumers learn how to buy authentic works.
The rights to represent Indigenous symbols, motifs and designs generally belong to particular clan groups or individuals. Permission according to Indigenous protocol and customary law set out the rules for representation of this cultural material. Producing them without permission is likely to be offensive to Indigenous people.
Indigenous artists who paint their personal stories, the stories of Indigenous people who have impacted on them, and express their feelings, concerns and views, do so from their particular viewpoint. It is important to be sensitive to particular cultural perspectives and the rights of the people who have direct experience of that perspective to tell their stories their way in order to maintain respectful relations with Indigenous people and communities.
The use of Aboriginal art centres, Indigenous artist’s co-operatives and reputable dealers will assist buyers in making purchases of authentic Indigenous artistic works.
When purchases are made this way the buyer will generally receive information about the artwork and the artist which will help him/her understand the work and its meaning. In general, a substantial percentage of the sale price of a work by an Indigenous artist will be paid by the art centre to the artist, so buying from Aboriginal art centres maximises the returns to artists. Different art centres pay different amounts to the artist. If this is of concern to you as a buyer, ask the art centre about its policy. Many art centres also sell works online, so if travelling to the centre is difficult, use the list at the end of this fact sheet to viewing Indigenous works online.
Visiting Indigenous art centres situated in remote areas requires some planning and preparation. Many Indigenous art centres in remote areas can only be accessed by road at certain times of the year due to weather conditions. Some are only accessible using a four wheel drive, and there is no accommodation available.
If you intend travelling to Indigenous art centres in the Northern Territory or Torres Strait, check to see if you need a permit to travel there. Permits can be obtained from the Aboriginal Land Councils (for the Northern Territory) and from the Torres Strait Regional Authority. Desart, the Association of Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft Centres, advises that permits may take up to three weeks to process.
Sections 1 and 2 of the Indigenous Visual Art and Craft Resource Directory 2006 list art centres and dealers, and is an excellent source of information for consumers of Indigenous visual arts requiring wholesale purchases, or the services of Indigenous manufacturers and designers.
In addition to the art centres mentioned in section 1 of the Indigenous Visual Art and Craft Resource Directory 2006, and the Indigenous art centres, the wholesalers, manufacturers and designers in section 3, section 5 provides list of major resources, support and advocacy agencies for Indigenous artists. The section, "Artist’s Associations – Indigenous" provides a State by State guide to peak Indigenous artists organisations. These organisations are an excellent source on Indigenous art and guide to places to purchase Indigenous artistic works.
Many art centres, galleries, retailers and individual artists provide certificates of authenticity which give details about the artist, and perhaps some cultural information relevant to the artwork for sale.
The Indigenous Visual Art and Craft Resource Directory 2006 suggests:
- Buyers should obtain detailed documentation including: the name and language group of the artist, the title of the work, the date and location of production and the name of the local art centre, cultural information and a statement from the artist or artists.
- In the case of manufactured items being sold as Indigenous art or artefacts, packaging or labelling should clearly identify that the item was manufactured in Australia, and that it is licensed to an Indigenous artist, who is clearly attributed as the maker of the work.
A State by State guide to contact details for Indigenous art centres can be accessed in The Indigenous Visual Art and Craft Resource Directory 2006. It is an excellent source of information for consumers of Indigenous visual arts. It includes sections on Indigenous art centres, wholesalers, manufacturers and designers, public art galleries and museums, arts and cultural festivals and prizes, resources, support and advocacy agencies, online resources.
The Black Book Directory is an excellent source of information about over 2,700 Indigenous people and organisations working in the arts, media and cultural industries. The Directory can be searched online using the categories of state, Indigenous nation or language group, name and category to identify Indigenous people and organisations. The Black Book Library consists of over 2000 titles of works by Indigenous creators. It is divided into three sections - Publications, Music and Screen. The works in these categories are listed according to whether they are documentaries, plays, feature films, albums etc.
This guide was produced by ANKAA and Desart.
These tips have been developed by the NSW Office of Fair Trading
The Indigenous Art Trade Association set out a number of Questions to Ask when Buying Australian Aboriginal Art for consumers. The questions focus on issues of authenticity, integrity and value.
Need more help?
If you have questions about any of the topics discussed above please contact Arts Law.
The information in this information sheet is general. It does not constitute, and should be not relied on as, legal advice. The Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law) recommends seeking advice from a qualified lawyer on the legal issues affecting you before acting on any legal matter.
While Arts Law tries to ensure that the content of this information sheet is accurate, adequate or complete, it does not represent or warrant its accuracy, adequacy or completeness. Arts Law is not responsible for any loss suffered as a result of or in relation to the use of this information sheet. To the extent permitted by law, Arts Law excludes any liability, including any liability for negligence, for any loss, including indirect or consequential damages arising from or in relation to the use of this information sheet.
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