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Aboriginal Art Online

1. What's New
2. Price Reductions - Desert Dialysis Sale
3. Indigenous Art Market
4. Rock Art of the Kimberley


What's New at Aboriginal Art Online


Gwion image

Our sale of paintings from the central and western deserts to support the Western Desert Dialysis Program is continuing. The paintings have been donated by supporters of the program and proceeds from the sale of each work will go to the Program. To encourage further sales, the donors have agreed to a further reduction of 20-30% on the prices of all paintings listed for over $750. This is a great opportunity to purchase a quality artwork at much reduced price -  and at the same time to support this important Aboriginal-controlled initiative.

The second item is about the state of the Aboriginal art market - what we know about it and what we don't.

The three magnificent books by Mike Donaldson on the Rock Art of the Kimberley region of northern Australia have now all been published. These books capture well the beauty and richness of this art and are available through our Online Shop.

Martin Wardrop
Director, Aboriginal Art Online Pty Ltd




Price reductions - Western Desert dialysis sale



Eunice Yunurupa Porter

Eunice Yunurupa Porter
Two Wanambi
102x152 cm 2007
















We are offering nearly 30 paintings to raise funds for the Western Desert Dialysis Program. This Program helps Aboriginal patients to receive medical treatment for kidney disease and to set up facilities in their home communities at Kintore and Yuendumu.

The donors of these art works have agreed to a further reduction of 20-30% in the previously listed price for all paintings originally over $750!

Paintings in the sale range from larger, more expensive works to smaller pieces at modest prices (starting at $150). Please help this very worthwhile cause by buying one of these fine art works!

Paddy Kunmanara
Carmel Yukenbarri
Rama Sampson
Paddy Kunmanara
Paddy's Country
122x122 cm 2006
Carmel Yukenbarri
80x120 cm 2005
Rama Sampson
60x90 cm 2006
Iluwanti Ken
Ivy Nixon
Alice Nampitjinpa
Iluwanti Ken
91x91 cm 2009
Ivy Nixon
Louisa Downs Country
65x56 cm 2000
Alice Nampitjinpa
Flowers in the tali
91x122 cm 2003
Darren Connelly
Ngamaru Bidu
Sean Williamson
Darren Connelly
75x98 cm 2007

Ngamaru Bidu
Nyakan Soak
80x110 cm 2008

Sean Williamson
91x91 cm 2009



Indigenous Art Market








Several weeks ago, the journalist Nicolas Rothwell wrote a characteristically florid article for the Australian newspaper in which he stated:

For the past half-decade, since the global financial crisis killed off the booming indigenous art market, champions of the desert painting movement have maintained an attitude of stoic assurance.

Rather than panic, the culture bureaucrats in Canberra and the art centre managers of the inland have clung to their key assumptions: the official consensus that all will be well in the long run, the buyers will return and the flood of public funding that keeps the Aboriginal art industry afloat will keep on flowing to take up the commercial slack. High-end galleries specializing in indigenous art may be on their knees, the federal government's superannuation fund reforms may have torn the heart out of the collecting trade, but the shared dream of a thriving, sustainable Aboriginal art sector has survived.

That consensus was broken publicly for the first time by a key shaper of the desert art centre landscape late last month, at an insiders-only conference in Alice Springs; it was shattered comprehensively, but in discreet and subtle fashion, by an intriguing, low-key truth-teller. Philip Watkins, chief executive of Desart who represents the interests of about 45 Aboriginal-run art centres.

Despite Nicolas' claims of novelty for these views and their public airing, they have been discussed by many thoughtful people over the last few years. There is no doubt that there are difficulties in the Aboriginal art market and that existing models are not working.

However, discussion and finding solutions to the undeniable problems has been hampered by a basic knowledge of how the market actually functions (size, finances, value chain, etc), what motivates buyers of Aboriginal art and what information and other services they need.

One of Australia's Cooperative Research Centres (for Remote Economic Participation) has made a start on an in-depth analysis of the Indigenous art market - and has published a discussion paper that is well worth reading."Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Economies Project: Literature Review" by Tim Acker, Lisa Stefanoff and Alice Woodhead.

Some of the important issues that the paper explores are summarised below (following closely the text of the paper).

Recent years have seen a major contraction in the Indigenous art economy. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a 52% reduction in sales over the period 2007-12 in remote art centres. This is consistent with the steady decline since 2007 in the AIAM100 index of the health of the Australian indigenous art market and other anecdotal information about the difficulties within the market.

The Indigenous art market has developed into segments defined by products, regions and market value. At the high value end, art is still auctioned as ‘Australian and Oceanic’ art by major auction houses although it has moved from being considered as ‘primitive fine art’ to ‘contemporary art’. At the low value end, mass-produced souvenirs and art works of sometimes dubious provenance are widely marketed through private websites, auctions and in tourist precincts.

Throughout the marketing of Indigenous art there are ideas of cultural ‘authenticity’, where buyers appear to seek access to the cultural differences embodied by Indigenous people through their artworks. There has been no published research into lower and mid-market consumer ‘taste’ for Aboriginal art and the role that culture and authenticity plays in its purchase.

The few studies of the secondary market for Indigenous art all use auction results as a basis for analysis. Researchers emphasise that the secondary market for Indigenous artworks is concentrated in a small number of artists at the top of the market and is exaggerated relative to the market in general. In the decade between 1997 and 2007, Sotheby’s auction house sold over $50M of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, with 50–70% of that value coming from sales to the USA, Canada and Europe.

The CRC discussion paper suggests the following issues need better understanding and research:

  • Existing measures of the size of, and activity within, the sector are too narrow, variable and/or contested to provide detailed understandings of the financial forces at work.
  • Only fragmented and limited information exists on what makes art centres ‘work’ and how they might be made more robust.
  • A growing number of artists are choosing a growing number of ways to engage with the art industry; there is no understanding of the scope, scale and motivations of this sector and its implications for existing business practices.
  • More detailed understanding of buyer motivation and behaviour is required and is likely to provide valuable information to the sector.
  • There is very limited understanding of remote area and/or inter-cultural employment; the impact of external staff on the art enterprises that employ them warrants study.
  • E-commerce, licensing and merchandising offer potential opportunities, but understanding of them is limited.
  • The role of authenticity, cultural connections, provenance and cross-cultural understanding in influencing buyer behaviour .

Richard Bell painting: Aboriginal Art Its a White Thing

Richard Bell's Telstra Award winner 2003: "Aboriginal Art: It's a White Thing"



Rock Art of the Kimberley


Kimberley Rock Art book volume 3
Volume 3










The third volume of Mike Donaldson's series of three books on Kimberley Rock Art is now available. The volumes cover the rock art of this vast region and are the culmination of 20 years of documentation and photography by the author. Volume 3 is devoted to the rock art of the Rivers and Ranges (Roe, Sale, Glenelg, Charnley, Isdell rivers, Manning Creek and more) of the region.

I am fortunate in being able to go on a trip to some of this area in June and July this year and in a later Newsletter will include some images of this amazing country and its rock art. Below are two images by Mike Donaldson of the Roe River and its rock art.

Roe River Echidna rock art image

The Roe River, west Kimberley (top left) and rock art image of an echidna (right).