SHow to Collect Aboriginal Art — Starting a Collection - Part 6

  • Author: Adrian Newstead
  • Issue: 11


There has a great deal of discussion about authenticity in relation to Aboriginal art. Much of it has been simplistic, prescriptive, discriminatory and based on cultural ignorance.

Those readers who feel as passionately as I do about the interests of Indigenous artists and and the art industry, will forgive this slightly inflammatory introduction to a subject that, I believe, has never been treated intelligently in the media and is constantly portrayed as the Indigenous art industry’s Achilles heal.

Among the many issues that fall in to its domain are indigenous cultural conventions, attribution, assistance, appropriation, authorship, collaboration, integrity and equity, not to mention outright fraud. Many collectors have thrown their arms up in despair, confronted with what appears to be an ethical dilemma so complex, that they have been inclined to give up, and stop collecting altogether. Others have been persuaded that by simply buying works that emanate exclusively from community art centres they can avoid authenticity issues altogether. Both courses of action are based on insecurity and fear. Much of this, though certainly not all, has been fanned by elements within the industry with a vested interest in portraying certain sources of art as being more highly prized and collectable than others.

While this may be true, it is none the less important to understand authenticity issues clearly in order to make informed decisions...


Authorship, Assistance and Collaboration

Before Aboriginal art was considered part of the ‘contemporary art market’ it was sold simply as an ethnographic curiosity or an artefact for study. It was considered of interest only in so far as it reflected a ‘true’ or ‘real’ aspect of traditional modes of behaviour, ritual expression, or daily life. All tribal members played a role in cultural activities that involved artistic input...



The way in which a work of art is advertised and promoted, most especially in the secondary market, is always a serious matter of scholarship and this is why the matters dealt with above can become so difficult and confusing...



Full download available 29th of August 2017

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