The increasing popularity of Aboriginal art over the past few years has, unfortunately, led to the market becoming swamped with fake or imported artwork or art that has not been done by an indigenous artist.
The work of the Arts Law Centre of Australia, a leading advocate for indigenous artists, has been pivotal in protecting the authenticity of Aboriginal and Torres Island artwork and ensuring that a fair price is received.
Identifying fake artwork, however, is not easy. But, buyers can best authenticate original true works by:
1. Consulting with an Aboriginal-controlled art centre that has the Indigenous Art Code accreditation or an expert. Ask lots of questions.
2. If the product is genuine, the seller should be able to tell the buyer who the artist is and where they are from. They should also know how the artist is being paid.
3. Check for incompatible styles. “They’ll mix the x-ray styles of Arnhem Land with the heavy line work of the Kimberley on top and adding dots to it as well,” says ABC reporting from Jonathan Sanders from ANKAAA (Hack).
4. Authentic artwork may contain extraneous material depending on where the artist was working or what the artwork has come into contact with. e.g. sand (desert), animal hair, plant material.
BUT, there are grey areas.
1. The buyer should verify that the artist has received permission from the authorities of his particular Aboriginal group to paint a particular story or use certain symbols. This information can be difficult to get.
2. Most stories are related to the Dreaming,, but there can be exceptions.
3. Is the painter Aboriginal or of mixed descent?
Verifying the authenticity of Aboriginal art is important because the profit from sales of artwork flows back to and supports the communities where the artists live. And, for Aboriginal communities, maintaining integrity, authenticity and respect for their culture is an absolute requirement..