Australia Indigenous artists preyed on and sent into debt by 'carpetbagging' art dealers, inquiry told

01:31  11 august  2018
01:31  11 august  2018 Source:   abc.net.au

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A senate inquiry is told art dealers will target vulnerable Indigenous artists in hospitals, and may give them a car and tell them to paint their way to pay for it.

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As the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair kicked off, so did a senate inquiry hearing into © Provided by ABC News As the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair kicked off, so did a senate inquiry hearing into "fake" Indigenous art.

The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, which last year generated more than $2.2 million in three days and is one of the largest in the country, kicked off last night.

Today, an inquiry was held right next door to the fair, probing into the effects of "fake art" on Indigenous communities and how the booming industry is being rorted.

A federal parliamentary committee was called to investigate the growing presence of inauthentic "Indigenous-style" art and craft products for sale.

According to the Arts Law Centre of Australia, around 80 per cent of the pieces of "Indigenous art" marketed to tourists in shops are inauthentic.

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Indigenous artist . Yunkurra Billy Atkins. art dealers + centres. The Indigenous Art Code acknowledges the traditional owners and custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to the land, sea and community.

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Manipulation of high-profile artists rife in Alice Springs

"Carpetbagging" was a term put to the committee this morning — a practice generally referring to outsiders moving into an area to take advantage of a situation.

According to Skye O'Meara, manager of the APY Art Centre Collective, art dealers were constantly preying on high-profile artists in Alice Springs, forced to work under misleading circumstances.

"The trickery involved is that artists have to pay for materials, food and accommodation, which are later detailed when artists are billed," she said.

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Indigenous Australian art or Australian Aboriginal art is art made by the Indigenous peoples of Australia and in collaborations between Indigenous Australians and others.

The Code maintains standards for dealings between Dealers of Indigenous Art and Artists . The Code supports the rights of Indigenous Artists to negotiate fair terms for their work and gives buyers greater A Code Certificate tells potential buyers that an artwork has been sold and purchased in

"They might be given a car, and then asked to paint their way to pay for it.

"The whole process bends your mind but is very much a part of Alice Springs life."

Ms O'Meara said dealers targeted vulnerable artists, finding them in hospitals and in town.

She also spoke of a young central desert artist who was in $35,000 worth of debt to an art dealer, with no course of action.

Calls for stronger regulation

Five Indigenous bodies in the art community took the microphone this morning to express the need for stronger regulation of replica art.

Gabriel Noda, Deputy Chair of the Arnhem, Northern and Kimberley Artists Aboriginal Corporation (ANKAAA), addressed the inquiry in Darwin, calling for deterrent measures and legislation to be put in place immediately.

"We would like to find a real solution to solve the problem now. A [regulatory] body or a corporation should be set up down south, and have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people apply to work there," he said.

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"It should have people who know about the law and parliament, coming up with a penalty and resolution to go through parliament.

"Those selling fake art should be prosecuted … back in the day [if] you took a man's belongings, you get speared."

Mr Noda also called for strengthening of the Indigenous art code — which underpins trade between Indigenous art dealers and artists — to ensure that deals were fair and ethical.

Chief Executive Officer of ANKAAA, Christina Davidson, said the regulatory system was not efficient.

"There's an extraordinary amount of clutter that confuses the consumer and disturbs authentic artists," she said.

"It puts the onus on the good guys to prove what they're doing is authentic. The bad guys don't have to do anything."

Acting chair of the inquiry, Member for Lingiari Warren Snowden, assured Darwin attendees that in their report to parliament, the committee would make very strong recommendations on amending consumer law and the Indigenous Arts Code.

"People are very angry that their culture is being stolen. We understand that. The same story is being told to us," he said.

The senate inquiry has held twenty public hearings and received in excess of 150 submissions, with Darwin being the last stop in the nationwide tour.

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