Saturday, 8 August 2009

A Magazine for the Australian Art Collector

If you are looking for a good Art magazine featuring information and adverts about Aboriginal Art and Aboriginal Art galleries, then have a look at Australian Art Collector Magazine

The magazine was launched in 1997 and is one of Australia’s only magazines for Art collectors. Each issue contains a number of authoritative articles on collecting Australian contemporary and Aboriginal art. Some of Australia’s leading art writers and journalists profile Australian and Aboriginal artists as well collectors, dealers and philanthropists. The magazine also reports on news and current issues in the art world and they also preview important exhibitions across the range of collectable Australian art. Whilst advertising is something readers usually want kept to a minimum in magazines, in the case of Australian Art Collector, the more the better I say. Many of the galleries adverts allow you to view many artworks and gauge who offers what and where they are located. As long as the content is kept up the ads are a bonus in my opinion.

The magazine is available in many newsagents and a list of stockists is available on the website. You can also subscribe directly from the website and save 20%.

Here is their website:

Australian Art Collector Magazine

Aboriginal Art Industry continues to defy the GFC

I've been saying for quite some time that the Aboriginal Art market has remained strong despite the global financial crisis and the article below is further proof that the market is performing above the expectations of a number of people who comment on the art sector.

Many galleries have experienced good sales and it seems a number of Art centres are also doing well despite the negativity, mainly in the press I might add, in relation to the world economy.

With many believing the worst is behind us (even some in the press, shock horror) the Aboriginal Art market looks set for further growth in the short to medium term.

Aboriginal art flourishes despite recession

7th August 2009, 9:00 WST

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.”


Original Article From The West Australian

Program to foster Indigenous Art Curating

The lack of Indigenous people running government funded Aboriginal Art Centres has been something that has long concerned me and it is fantastic to see an initiative to address the situation. I think this is a fantastic idea and wholeheartedly support the concept. I look forward to reporting on the success of the fellowship and would like to congratulate Wesfarmers and Helen Carroll-Fairhall on putting this program together. Well done!

NGA to run programs to foster indigenous art curating

Corrie Perkin, national arts writer | July 08, 2009

Article from: The Australian

THE Aboriginal art market generates more than $300 million a year and produces some of Australia's most talented artists.

But when it comes to managing and curating art, only a tiny percentage of Australia's visual arts professionals are indigenous.

For three years, Helen Carroll-Fairhall, manager of the Wesfarmers Arts program, has pondered this anomaly and wondered how her organisation -- a long-time supporter of the arts -- could bring more Aboriginal people into the gallery network.

After months of consulting and planning, the Wesfarmers company and the National Gallery of Australia yesterday announced a $1.25m five-year fellowship program to train and mentor indigenous people in areas such as curatorship, art registration, exhibition design, public programs and gallery marketing and communications. It is the only national fellowship of its kind, and bypasses the normally competitive and demanding traditional gallery entry process.

The fellowship, which starts in 2010, will offer 16 indigenous people a two-week intensive internship at the Canberra gallery. Two interns will then be selected to work and train at the NGA for a further two years.

The program will be repeated in 2012 with a further 16 interns.

Ms Carroll-Fairhall said she hoped the project "significantly improves the representation of indigenous people in the profession, in those leadership and management roles in galleries and in national collecting institutions".

As well, more Aboriginal arts managers would strengthen the indigenous art sector.

The NGA has hired former Democrats senator Aden Ridgeway to consult Aboriginal communities and arts centres, state art galleries and governments on how to maximise the interns' long-term job opportunities.

"I think we have to wait and see what comes out of the workshops and discussions," Mr Ridgeway said. He predicted strong indigenous community support for the idea.

"When you look at the robustness and the dynamism of the indigenous art sector ... it will offer opportunities to those who don't necessarily have the talent to be artists but who might seek opportunities in art management."

Monday, 3 August 2009

Unique Aboriginal Art Exhibition in Melbourne

Below is an article about a fascinating exhibition being held in Melbourne with some incredibly unique pieces of Aboriginal Art. If you are in Melbourne at the time, it would be a rare opportunity to see such wonderful pieces and well worth a visit.

The most eye-opening show of Aboriginal art ever

Here goes: This is finest show of Aboriginal art I have ever seen.

It is neither the biggest (only 20 barks, and some objects), nor the most varied (it is narrow in range), but the works are unique in historical and aesthetic qualities. Every item is superb. Many are magnificent. And this is the first time – since being collected about seventy years ago – they have been shown in public.

arnhem1So and therefore, if you happen to be in Melbourne before or on August 23, head straight for the Ian Potter Museum of Art at Melb. Uni. (not the Ian Potter gallery in the city). I have had the good luck to have seen it three times.

The exhibition is titled “The most eye-opening show of Aboriginal art I have ever seen”. No, alright, actually: Ancestral power and the aesthetic: Arnhem Land paintings and objects from the Donald Thomson Collection, curated by Lindy Allen, who has spent the last two decades working with the collection.

It hasn’t had much publicity; there were reports in Crikey on 12 June by Henry Skerritt, and Nicholas RothwellAustralian, 4 June (Henry’s uncut piece here.) Culture Mulcher has been procrastinating writing about it – there are things to say but I’m still mulling, and I want to look more. But there’s not much time left before it closes, so anyone who has a feeling for Aboriginal art should go soonest. in the

To quote Rothwell: ‘For lovers of Aboriginal art, this is an event of the highest significance. It may be compared with the revelation of a roomful of unknown works from the Florentine trecento: early pieces that hold in them clues to the majesty of the bark painting schools of more recent times.’


Four very particular things to note about this show.

1) The sheer size of the bigger barks. They do not make them like this anymore! Whole trees became canvases (see ‘Djapu minytji’ painting below). And just how did Thomson get these monsters down from the North without damage?

2) A very elderly friend of mine who went to see the show said he was stunned. He remarked on how these evidently pre-Western influenced works already possessed a level of design sophistication that is simply spectacular. For me, the show is an absolute proof of Aboriginal paintings as art of the highest order.

(Which sounds really … duh. But to this day some very art-minded friends claim, in neutral tones, that they just don’t get Aboriginal painting. Which is code for how they think it does not have the same intentionality, or occupy the same conceptual-aesthetic space as “Art” as they know it.)

3) The patterning in these works is literally dazzling. The cross-hatching – called minytji – demonstrates the quality described in the wall notes as bir’yun. (Click here for a pdf of the notes.) This is the source of the sensational power of these pictures. (More below.)

4) The pictures were painted with the simplest hand-made tools. Brushes made with hair bound to a twig. Or made by chewing a stick till the end frayed into a brushy tip. Pigments from rocks, ground between stones. You can see these items displayed in a vitrine.


Three of the images from the exhibition are posted below; a figures have been inserted to indicate scale. I have also written up some notes here about the making of the pictures, and Donald Thomson’s discovery of the key to getting the pictures.



A 1935 photo (drawn above) of Wonggu Mununggurr sitting in the sand, with his tiny brush and freshly ground colours, making the first of the pictures commissioned by Donald Thomson. He was painting sacred and “just drawing” minytji (designs). In the photo you can see that he has a second brush between his teeth, of the frayed-end variety. And you can tell that his right nipple was pierced.


A drawing of some of the items in the vitrine display, which were collected the day before Wonggu made his first painting for Thomson. The stringbag, about 35 cm long not including handles, contained painting tools. There were pigment, ochres and orchid stem. The orchid stem provided a liquid extract which was mixed as an adhesive for the colour.


These hand-made (quite often on the spot, according to Thomson) brushes amaze me. That tiny brushes like these were used to cover some of the enormous barks on show is a staggering realisation.

Marawat (brush/’hair of the head’): human hair bound on wood with fibre.
(brush/stick): wood with frayed end.
Grindstone for gapang (white pigment), and one for red ochre.
Gangul or buthalak (yellow ochre).
Ratjpa (red ochre) wrapped in bark.
I inserted a ball point to show scale.


For the Greater Glory of God: sparkle, glitter, shine

This is the nub: (to continue on from point 3 above): this method of cross-hatching, the eye-dazzling designs, goes to the heart of the pictures – bir’yun is described as the sensation of “brilliance” or “flash”. It is ‘the quality of aesthetic’ embodied by the minytji, or cross-hatching design, which is the marr, or power, of the ancestor. That is, the minytji (design) creates the bir’yun (brilliance) that evokes the marr (power) of the likan wangarr (totemic clan ancestors).

From the exhibition catalogue:

The key discovery for Donald Thomson was that ‘the fine quality or aesthetic sought and achieved in painting minytji was not incidental, and that it was driven by the desire to capture the essence of the wangarr and harness its strength and power or marr. In field-notes from August 1937:

The spirit of the whole mintji—it is likened to the flash of a sudden ‘uplift’ when [the men] see the marr of the secret mintji … likened also to anger … the sensation of eyes is—its wangarr itself—they mean the sensation of light … the penetrating flash, the fixed intent stare of the eye—a wonderful mystical concept—idea—here … All mintji—has this light.

‘The word for this ‘light’ was bir’yun, a term that has a gloss in Yolngu language, meaning to sparkle, glitter or shine … i.e. the sparkling sensation of flowering white gums reflected in water.’


Ad maiorem Dei gloriamFor the greater glory of God – the motto of the Jesuits. And I think that’s pretty much what Wonggu and his fellow artists were doing when they made their minytji designs flash and crackle with bir’yun sparkle. They were aiming to reflect the glory of their ancestral spirits, their gods. They were painting for glory.



000448 Thomson Bark painting



A couple of final notes.

As Rothwell has written, these ‘early pieces … hold in them clues to the majesty of the bark painting schools of more recent times.’

I spoke to Henry Skerritt who elaborated: ‘As I say in the essay, the importance of this exhibition is that it represents the very beginnings of 2D painting in eastern Arnhem Land. Not only is it the first time that the designs are removed from their ceremonial use, but these artists introduce new figurative elements – elements which allow them to explain their grand stories to Westerners like Donald Thomson. The figurative devices introduced in these works – the way they paint spirits and humans, or even things like the use of footprints to indicate travel – reverberate through contemporary Yolngu painting. If you look at someone like David Malangi’s paintings – whose figures were used on the one dollar note – although the figures have a timeless feeling to them – they actually relate back to the the aesthetic inaugurated by artists like Wonggu in these major works collected by Thomson.’

Which is to say, the barks on show are the very beginnings of Arnhem painting as art commodity. Which is shown very well by Howard Morphy in his book Becoming Art: Exploring cross-cultural categories (UNSW Press). As he points out, ‘The major shift in art production has been away from embellished material culture objects towards bark paitings and other objects produced primarily for sale.’

This exhibition shows some of the deep roots, and first shoots of the now enormous forest of the Aboriginal art industry – and that really is eye-opening. But as Skerritt says, ‘Aside from that, these works are simply stunning … that is reason enough to go see them.’

Original Article location and Thanks to


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