Aboriginal art: a panorama to what Australia is giving to art market

Aboriginal Art in Canberra

Australia has always been an attractive destination to visit. This is the place where you can find in the midst of the action a twist of heritage. The old civilization of the ancestors matters a lot to Australians. In fact, their respect to the aboriginal culture is reflected by a seat in their parliament.

What is this culture about and why do we discuss aboriginal art in this article?

Historically speaking, that culture refers to the first humans who have inhabited the mainland and constituted, with the strait of Torres, the state of Oceania. Art is a key element in the aboriginal culture, especially painting.

Today, aboriginal art is very appreciated by art lovers and is very demanded in auction houses. However, we cannot tell how to categorize that type of art. Some people label it as an ethnical art others as a contemporary art.

What may this conflict inflect on Art market in general? What may it cause to artists? And how is it perceived by the international specter? These are the questions we’ll try to answer.

What is Aboriginal art?

In the first place, let’s start with a definition to aboriginal art:  every art piece that is handcrafted by an isolated society, politically and economically speaking, is an aboriginal art.

What is interesting to know is that, the shapes that we can find on actual paintings are exactly the same that we used to find on rocks back then in time. It symbolizes the spiritual links to the natives and it emphasize on the heritage.

Aboriginal art facing international art market

According to blog.artsper.com, in the last 16 years, aboriginal art’s market has increased more than 20%. It has become an interesting investment for all the well-informed collectors. Since the peak of 2007, the market has decreased before it got stable in 2014. However, 2015 has been a good year for the aboriginal art. It increased by 40% according to the AIAM 100, which explains the traders’ enthusiasm to this market.

Since the 90’s, aboriginal art has gain more interest in the artistic scene, thanks to the “specialized sales” of Sobethy’s” in 1997.  Each year, this market represent 50 million $ of the art market, knowing that the contemporary art’s market is represented by 2 billion $ each year. 50 to 70% of the auctions were done by north-American and European collectors according to the 2013’s report of “Aboriginal art Torres strait islander”.

Infographic summing up the key numbers of Aboriginal Art

Infographic summing up the key numbers of Aboriginal Art


Infographic summing up the key numbers of the Aboriginal Art Market

However the market ignores the contemporary aspect of that art and classify its sales in the “ethnographic and ancient art” and separates it from the other australian contemporary artists, who are classified in the “Paintings, drawing and sculptures” section. This classification penalize aboriginal art which is present in the contemporary artistic scene, as proved in the art galleries.

On the contrary to the market that focuses only on the historical aspect of that art, galleries highlights on the artists’ profiles. This conflict of definition conducted the artists into a serious problem of copyright.  That is why it is really important to verify the painting’s source and its’ authenticity.

Aboriginal art seen by the rest of the world

This type of art has noticed a frenzy outside Australia’s boarders, especially in Europe. In particular in Paris, the “Quaie Branly” museum was created to highlight all native arts around the world, and sure thing, aboriginal art was very present. Its rooftop was painted by the well-known artist Lena Nyadbi, who is an aboriginal artist.

Quai Branly Museum

Quai Branly Museum

This museum receive more than 1.5 million visitor per year. It is the most visited museum in this category, thing that proves the European enthusiasm to the native art. (Source: Lepetitjournal.com)

To conclude, the essence of this art is spiritual, philosophical, social and political. That’s what makes of it an ethnographical and historical art. On the other hand, it is very modern and is revolutionary, that’s what makes it contemporary.

To finish, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, leader of the Gumatj people has summarized it all by his saying: “we are painting, as we have always done, to demonstrate our continuing link with our country and the rights and responsibilities we have to it. We paint to show the rest of the world that we own this country and the country owns us. Our painting is a political act.”