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Australian Indigenous arts feature in Arts Economy

Australian Indigenous visual arts has achieved an astounding rise in interest across the globe. From the early traditional styles to more contemporary works, Indigenous artworks through auction sales have almost quadrupled, while individual works have more than tripled in value over the last 10 years, according to a comprehensive 30-year economic analysis of the Australian arts.

The research report, 'The Arts Economy 1969 – 1998: Three Decades of Growth in Australia', compiled by respected arts economist, Hans Guldberg, was officially released recently by the Australia Council, the Federal Government's arts funding body.

Mr Richard Walley, chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board, said Indigenous art had experienced a stellar rise in both the number of artworks sold and the value of these works with Indigenous art auction sales jumping from $873,000 in 1988 to $4.5 million in 1999. [From The Arts Economy Overview. A Companion to Hans Guldberg's The Arts Economy 1968 - 1998 which includes sales figures from 1998 and 1999. See references BELOW].

“In 1988, the value of Indigenous art represented only 1.7 percent of total Australian art auction sales. Today it represents around 10 percent of this market,” he said.

The increased interest in Indigenous art at auction is all the more significant in light of the decline over the same period of non-Indigenous Australian art auctions by nearly half to just over $25 million, he added.

In 1988, 150 Indigenous artworks sold at auction for $873,100 growing to 716 works auctioned for $3.8 million in 1997, signifying an increase of 380 percent in the number of works sold and 340 percent in the value of those works.

In the last few years great canvas works by the likes of Emily Kame Kngwarray, Rover Thomas, Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri and Ronnie Tjampitjinpa have sold for more than $100,000 and just recently, Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula's Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa (1972) went under the hammer at Sotheby's for over $486,000.

Mr Walley was pleased to see an increasing interest in Indigenous visual arts but said the report showed a disappointing outcome in growth for remuneration for the artists.

“We hope this situation will change and we will see an improvement in the income of Indigenous artists,” Mr Walley said.

“The Australia Council is working closely with the Government and Indigenous arts organisations towards ensuring artists receive reasonable remuneration for their work,” he said.

“We are also working with individual arts bodies towards protecting the authenticity of Indigenous arts practices.”

For more detail click here The Arts Economy 1968-1998

See also www.australia.org.nz


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