Export rule changes could revive Indigenous market

Published in the Australian Financial Review, 9 October 2015

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The market for Aboriginal art could be reignited if proposed changes to export restrictions are enacted, according to industry professionals including consultants Tim Klingender and D’lan Davidson.

The Protection of Moveable Cultural Heritage Act controls what culturally important material can leave the country, from Ned Kelly’s armour to art and craft objects. Arts lawyer Shane Simpson AM, who has just handed up his far reaching review of the Act to the government, says the current export system is time consuming and confusing, and has failed to balance the need to protect significant objects with maintaining “legitimate trade”.

Art consultant Tim Klingender says he saw a global market for Aboriginal art developing 20 years ago, but the introduction of the “well-meaning” legislation in 1986 largely quashed the interest of international collectors.

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Know your source: Buying Aboriginal art ethically

Published in Art Edit, Issue 2, Apr-Jun 2014

The next time you fall in love with a piece of Aboriginal art, before you reach for your credit card take the time to ask whether the artist who made the work was treated fairly. We walk you through what you need to know about buying Aboriginal art ethically.

When Aboriginal art began to boom in the late 1980s and 1990s, the smell of money attracted all sorts of players. Sadly not all the work bought and hung on art lovers’ walls during this time resulted in a fair price being paid to the artist. Other unethical practices also came to light, such as the removal of artists from their communities, which was done with the aim of quickly securing a large volume of artwork for sale and not always with the full consent of artists and their families.

The situation raised complex ethical issues about buying and owning Aboriginal art. How can you trace the work’s source? And how do you know if the artist has been dealt with respectfully in the commercial exchanges around the sale of their artwork?
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Undiscovered: Barayuwa Mununggurr

Published in Art Collector, Issue 68, Apr-Jun 2014

"Barayuwa Mununggurr" by Jane O'Sullivan in Art Collector

Born: 1980
Price range: $500 for smaller sculptures to $9,000 for major bark paintings

Working primarily with barks, larrakitj (ceremonial poles) and yidaki (didgeridoos), Barayuwa Mununggurr paints his mother’s Munyuku clan design. At its heart is a story about the hunting of an ancestral whale in Blue Mud Bay. When the dead whale washed up on the sand its rotting flesh was carved into strips with stone knives and then tossed back into the sea, forming a dangerous reef. The whale’s bones became rocks in the ocean.

Mununggurr’s work appears to capture the point when the strips of whale flesh become the living rhythms of the reef, and also speaks to the way that landforms have accrued significant spiritual and cosmological meaning in Yolngu culture. Bones too are thought of as the essence of a being and in 2013 Mununggurr began to hide the elements of a whale skeleton in his work. Five whale skeletons formed the underlying structure of his entry in last year’s National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award. The work was highly commended by the judges and was later acquired by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. His work has also been acquired by the National Gallery of Australia.
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