If you’re heading to the Northern Territory, and keen to buy your first piece of Indigenous art, we’ve got some great first timer tips from Rebecca Miniken, manager of Darwin’s Aboriginal Bush Traders.
First timer tips:
- For anyone interested in buying art, the first thing I think they should remember is that all art is subjective. What you buy at the end of the day will really depend on what you like – don’t forget to buy something you like!
- If you want to buy something from the place you’re travelling to, make sure you do your research first. A lot of people come to Darwin wanting to take home a piece of local art, but take home art from Alice Springs. Do some research on the different styles in each region. The Central desert, Arnhem Land, Darwin, the Tiwi Islands – each has a different style.
- Art isn’t always on canvas. A lot of communities in the Top End are famous for weaving, from baskets to big structural pieces, or printed fabric and burial poles, as well as canvas works.
- Probe the gallery attendants. Ask a lot of questions. Where is the artist from, what art centres do they work with? If they know what they’re doing they’ll be able to answer your questions.
- Most importantly, never buy anything without an artist profile or certificate of authenticity. The artist profile will tell you about where the artist is from, and the story behind the painting. The certificate comes from the Art gallery, or the corporation. Remember don’t buy anything that doesn’t have some kind of paperwork on where it comes from – it’s integral to the value of the piece.
- Always look at the brushwork of the painting, how neat the dot work is, or how fine the cross-hatching is. This will give you a guide on the quality and value of the work.
- If you have a specific spot in mind for your new art to hang, remember to measure the space! If you find an artist you like, ask if the gallery if they have any other work by this artist, or can commission a similar piece for you in the size you need.
- Don’t be afraid of buying big works – most art galleries and centres will ship the work to you.
- Be aware of where you’re buying from. Art centres work with individual artists, and might have artists in residence who will paint on site. They’re often government supported. Art galleries are places that buy and sell art.
- In terms of pricing, expect to pay more for well known artists, and high quality work. Remember, at the end of the day the market determines the price. There’s a huge price range, from around $50 to $10,000!
If you’re in Darwin, head to Aboriginal Bush Traders to learn more about Indigenous art, and to pick up great souvenirs from local businesses. They stock everything from skin care and homewares to jewellery and spices. The on site café is great for a morning tea stop – an ice bush tea and damper with bush jam hits the spot.
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