2. Ask questions
Asking informed questions about the art process is a great way to understand more about the artwork, its creator and its story. Across the Northern Territory there are distinct regional differences in style, for example, artists from the Tiwi Islands have a very different approach to those living in Central Australia.
Arts Manager Hannah Raisin from Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association in Milikapiti on Melville Island, north of Darwin, says, ‘the signature style for Tiwi artists is deeply embedded in the cultural and ceremonial practices of the islands, which often incorporate natural ochres’.
She echoes Alfonso’s comments about buying from art centres: ‘Buying directly from art centres registered through organisations such as ANKA, DesArts and the Indigenous Art Code is a great way to ensure artists are being renumerated appropriately and directly for their work’.
Raisin continues, ‘Cheap isn’t always better – black market can undermine the value of established and emerging art careers and takes money away from artists and communities that work hard to establish their reputations. Keep in mind also that commercial outlets will add an additional retail commission that can vary substantially. People should feel free to ask galleries and art centres what their retail commission is as a preliminary way of gauging how much money will end up in the pocket of the artist’.
Art centres have high ethical standards and a genuine sense of responsibility to indigenous artists and their communities. As a buyer you have the right to ask all sorts of questions about the artist, the work, and where your money goes to.