Current Trends in the Australian Aboriginal Art Scene

Australian Aboriginal art is one of the longest continuing art traditions in the world and prominent art critic Robert Hughes even said that it is the 'last great art movement'. Australian Aboriginal art is a very diverse art form that includes rock carving, woodcarving, sculpture, sand painting, ceremonial clothing and artistic decorations. Because of its unique style and form, indigenous art has been studied in recent years and gained growing international fame and recognition.

Nowadays, many art consultancy firms, art galleries, and art investors have increasingly become interested in Australian Aboriginal art. In fact, the art market has become so lucrative that it even outsold European art and contemporary Australian art in auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

Specialisation in Australian Aboriginal Art

Art consultancy firms have now ventured in the Australian Aboriginal art market in an effort to obtain the quality artists that produced quality works of art. Ever since Geoffrey Bardon started the Papunya painting movement in 1971, this art trend has spread from the rural and remote Alice Springs to the urban centres of Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth as a contemporary art of a unique style and form.

International Awards

The growing popularity of Australian Aboriginal art has propelled leading indigenous artists to win prestigious awards and have solo exhibitions in major art galleries. Following the footsteps of their predecessors William Barak and Albert Namatjira, contemporary artists like Wynne Prize winners Joanne Currie Nalingu and George Tjungurrayi, Blake Prize awardee Shirley Purdie, Clemenger Contemporary Art Award winner John Mawurndjul, and Venice Biennale representatives Rover Thomas and Yvonne Koolmatrie have gained recognition for their works.

Indigenous Art Cooperatives

These cooperatives were formed to develop and preserve Australian Aboriginal art. Unlike contemporary Australian art that requires formal education, indigenous art is created in community groups. Art style and form varies in different cooperatives like the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative, Ikuntji, Papunya Tula, and the Aboriginal Australia Art and Culture Centre.

‘Urban Art’ Movement

Most indigenous artists have no formal training and their artworks are based upon traditional knowledge and skills passed by their elders. On the other hand, many artists who are living in the cities, many of whom have formal education in contemporary Australian and European art, have now combined the elements of mainstream art with their own. These artists have shifted their interpretations of their traditional art.

Art Investment and Exploitation

Being a lucrative market, works by prominent indigenous artists have increased in value over the past three decades. In fact, the Australian Aboriginal art sector now worth more than A$500 billion as compared to about A$100 million to A$300 million a decade ago. On the other hand, there have been growing issues of art fraud and exploitation that affected the indigenous art scene.

Industry Regulation

In an effort to protect the Australian Aboriginal art industry, laws were implemented to establish standards of practice and fair dealing. In 2006, the Art Consulting Association of Australia was established to enhance the commercial aspects of art consulting in Australia with the maintenance and establishment of a set of ethical standards.

Increased competition in the Australian art consultancy sector has facilitated a marked improvement in service. Prominent art galleries and art investors alike have now hired professional art consultants to meet the growing demands and follow the current trends and developments of the indigenous art industry.

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