Aboriginal art is one of the longest art traditions in the world, with a history of making art in Australia for around 40,000 years. Aboriginal art is no different from other art forms that tell a story of its people while making political, economic, social, or emotional statements. But what is changing about this long standing cultural expression of Australia’s heritage is the use of new tools with the more traditional materials like bark, natural ochres, leaves, and grasses. This newer style is something that art enthusiasts should definitely explore while visiting Australia.
Aboriginal artists are located all over Australia in both rural and urban areas, but many of the larger Aboriginal communities are remote and impoverished, making their artists and the art susceptible to dubious dealer practices. Wherever you choose to buy your piece, make sure that it comes with a statement of authenticity. It should include the date of the piece, the artist’s name, the language of artist, where it was made, the title of the work, and possibly an artist statement about the piece. Of course, as with any artwork, high quality demands a higher price, and vice versa. Also, be aware that sometimes the copyright to an artist’s work is retained by the artist, which allows the artist to produce and sell copies of the work, so check with your dealer or art center for details before you purchase. Ultimately, use your instinct to guide you towards pieces that resonate with your style and interest to ensure a quality purchase for your home.
One way to purchase genuine Aboriginal art that is practically foolproof is to purchase your pieces from an art center. The mission of these cultural hubs is not just to sell and distribute Aboriginal art, but to house artist studios, host workshops, provide education to the larger Australian community, with most of the proceeds going to aboriginal communities. These art centers also aim to continue the tradition of Aboriginal art by connecting older, seasoned artists with younger students for mentoring opportunities. With the advent of online information and growing awareness around one of the oldest forms of art in Australia, its commercialization has prospered from one decade to another and will continue to gain interest by those in the art world.
To further guarantee the integrity of Aboriginal art centres, a number of local advocacy bodies have been established to support artists, the art centers, and their activities and goals. The main organizations are Ananguku Arts and Culture Corporation, ANKAAA, Desart, UMI Arts, Kimberley Aboriginal Artists, as well as the newly founded Western Australia Aboriginal Art Centre Hub. There is also the Indigenous Art Code, which was developed to set some guidelines about how to purchase, deal, and operate within this art community. You can find registered members on their site to help guide your purchase decisions.
Whatever artwork you find during your Australian vacation, it is definitely going to be a piece that allows you to bring home a part of the rich history of our country.