Crossing cultural barriers

A STRONG international market for Aboriginal art isn’t always matched in the domestic sphere and, in Perth’s case, this newly established market is still finding its feet.

The Sotherby’s Aboriginal art sale in June this year generated more than $5.5 million, and Greenhill Gallery director Paul Swain said Sotherby’s had ignited the market for indigenous works around the world.

“Aboriginal art is one of the best forms of abstract art in the world,” he said. “I’m interested in getting into it but I haven’t really researched it that well.

“It very hard to authenticate though because there are a lot of forgeries.”

Mr Swain said the art market had bounced back completely after the slump following September 11 last year.

“Literally it’s right back where it was, it’s really booming again,” he said.

Indigenart proprietor Dr Diane Mossenson said people bought art for a number of different reasons.

For some people it was purely a financial investment decision, while for others the decision was far more emotional, she said

Indigenart attracts its fair share of interstate buyers from the larger and more developed art markets in Sydney and Melbourne.

Next month Indigenart will take a collection of works to the annual Melbourne Art Fair.

It’s a big journey, particularly for the works of art, which need to be carefully freighted.

“We need to be organised a long way in advance here in the west,” Dr Mossenson said. “Once we had a truck catch on fire on the Nullarbor.”

The Melbourne Art Fair, which works hard to bill itself as the premiere art fair in the country, attracts about 28,000 people.

Its still only a fraction of the big international fairs, such as the art fair in Spain, which attracts more than 600,000 visitors and buyers.

“I guess every gallery deals with its own bunch of variables,” Dr Mossen-son said. “But I still think the Perth art market trails a long way behind [that in] the eastern states.

“I think some people who buy art source it on a national basis and they often take advice from galleries in the eastern states.”

Support from the media in WA was also an issue, Dr Mossenson said.

“The media support is very poor and the depth and quality of the writing is very poor,” she said.

As a result of this there was a real blandness in the market.

“When someone says something like: ‘I think that’s really awful’, at least then other people will come in and look at it,” Dr Mossenson said.

“And as my advertising guy says, for an industry that’s supposed to be selling a very creative product, there are some very boring ads out there.

“Quite how you go about stimulating interest in collecting original art is a question one must ask.”

In Perth the issue is partly cultural, especially in terms of breaking down some of the barriers that prevent people from walking into an art gallery.

“People make you justify your existence and justify the role you play with the artists,” Dr Mossenson said.

From the perspective of investors, Dr Mossenson maintains it’s an excellent investment.

“But I think people need to choose well,” she said. “I suppose we are trying to let people know they are welcome to come in and explore the gallery.

“And really, you don’t need to have a lot of money. In fact you can speculate quite well.”

A collection of Jody Broun’s work is currently on display at the Subiaco Indigenart gallery.

It has been two years since Ms Broun has exhibited a collection of her work in WA. The works look at the impact of the stolen generation on the children and families that it touched.

Ms Broun is the only urban artist to have won a major award in the Telstra Art Award.


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