Aboriginal art flourishes despite recession

Aboriginal Art Directory | 10.08.09

News source: The West Australian

The current global financial crisis may be putting the economic pinch on the Australian art market but Aboriginal art centres in the Northern Territory are more than weathering this fiscal storm.

“The global financial crisis is an interesting phenomenon,” said John Oster, executive officer of Desart, the association of central Australian Aboriginal art and craft centres.

“We’ve seen its negative consequences in the top end of the art market but the Northern Territory seems to have escaped many of the effects of the crisis.”

Mr Oster said a marked increase in tourism through central Australia, with many travellers visiting art centres for the first time, was resulting in increased sales.

“Many of (the art centres) are doing very well and we have received reports that not only are sales keeping up with last year but in some cases art centres have reported increases,” he said.

Alan Tyley, who manages the Keringke Art Centre at Santa Teresa, southeast of Alice Springs, says he has seen a marked fluctuation in the central Australian art market since the beginning of the year.

“What we’ve found is that the lower end has been the best performer,” he said.

“The painted ceramics have been moving extremely well where our middle range stock at $500-1000 is very dead, but artworks over $1,000 are still moving.

“The mums and dads who used to buy a bit of art are saving their money, but people who travel still buy gifts and that market is still strong – and the people who had $1,000 to spend still have $1,000 to spend.”

Mr Tyley said art was the bread and butter of most Aboriginal communities and needed continual support.

Mr Oster echoed this sentiment during a recent artist’s camp in Alice Springs convened by Desart, where more than 40 artists and their representatives from 15 different art centres in the central desert region gathered to discuss current market trends and identify areas where improvements can be made.

“One of the things that many art centres have come to in the global financial crisis is a retreat to quality,” he said.

The focus of the camp was to improve the quality of art produced to ensure strong sales were maintained across the region.

“We spent a lot of time working out what is the real quality of the art that they are producing, what are the genuine cultural values that they are trying to convey in their artwork and the quality of the paintings themselves as an art product,” he said.

“It is important to deal with the global financial crisis and other issues with input from the artists and art centre managers and we would like to see that they become part of the solution.”

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