Bigger than Business: Where to Buy Aboriginal Art in Australia
The Aborigines have been around for more than 65,000 years. The ongoing culture is one that is rich in tradition, translating into thousands of relics and stories to celebrate the heritage. The art coming from indigenous people are not just pieces – they are stories that tell of their tradition, history, laws, religion, and culture. While it is becoming more difficult to distinguish fake from authentic Aboriginal artworks, there are businesses that support the production and sale of indigenous art. These enterprises promote the ethical and sustainable selling of art. Here we will find out where to buy Aboriginal art in Australia that will support our indigenous artists.
1. Koorie Heritage Trust
Established to address the need for preserving oral histories and to have an avenue for the expression of art and design of the Koorie people, the Koorie Heritage Trust is a good start for your purchase of Australian Aboriginal art. Formerly housed at the Museum of Victoria before relocating to 295 King Street, the Trust can now be found at Federation Square’s Yarra Building. The control and management of the Koorie art are in the hands of the Koorie people, allowing them to have their own space where they can display and sell their art. Educational and cultural programs are hosted by the Trust to ensure that the community’s history is not lost. Shop Koorie is the retail store of the Trust, aimed at highlighting the unique design of Victorian Aboriginal art. Pieces designed and crafted by the Koorie people can be bought from the shop, ensuring you of authentic pieces that support Aborigines.
2. Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative
Back in 1987, ten artists from different Aboriginal groups within the New South Wales state areas dreamed of having equal opportunity with mainstream artists. Recognizing the need to have space where urban-based Aboriginals can create their work, the ten artists formed the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative. The main goals of Boomalli are the support, education, and copyright protection of their artist members. Exhibitions are held so that the artists will have space to install and promote their artwork. Guests can visit Boomalli at Flood Street in Leichhardt where the main gallery hosts major exhibitions. The room galleries are venues for artists can curate their own individual exhibitions. Paintings, prints, and other art pieces are available for sale, allowing you to support the artist members of the Cooperative.
The Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists (ANKAAA) is an advocacy agency committed to supporting its more than 5,000 artist members from 4 regions, including the Tiwi Islands, Kimberley, Darwin/Katherine, and Arnhem Land. The aim of the Association is to support the development of its Art Centers, thereby helping the Aborigines sustainably use their art for livelihood and to enhance their communities. There are many services that the agency gives as support to its members, one of which is the networking it provides to the artists. The Art Centers put their artists in touch with relevant resources and organizations, giving them the opportunity to showcase their art and sell them at fair prices in order to help their communities. The activities, products, and pieces by the Aborigines are marketed through physical and digital formats in order to help spread knowledge on the culture and arts of the indigenous tribes. With acclaimed artists and significant community leaders belonging in the Association, you can be sure that the art pieces you buy from ANKAAA are authentic and really support the Aboriginal communities where they come from.
Read More: Australian Aboriginal Stories
4. Mbantua Fine Art Gallery and Cultural Museum
A pioneer in Australian Aboriginal Art, Mbantua has been supporting the Aboriginal artists in Central Australia for the last 30 years. The people behind the Gallery make regular trips especially to the Utopia region where they meet local artists so they can stock up on their large selection of high-quality art from the Aborigines. The many artists supported by the gallery produce pieces from paintings to sculptures to Zebra stonewares. These pieces often depict landscapes, Dreaming stories, and other designs from traditional to modern Aboriginal art. Located in Alice Springs, you can buy these Aboriginal art pieces by visiting them or through online purchase. Mbantua provides profiles for all artworks, including some information on the artists and stories on how the art piece came about. This will ensure buyers on the provenance of their purchase as well as an appreciation for the culture where the product came from.
5. Japingka Aboriginal Art
With a physical gallery in High Street in Fremantle, Japingka Aboriginal Art is a proud member of the Aboriginal Art Association of Australia and the Indigenous Art Code. If you are looking for places where to buy Aboriginal art in Australia, Japingka is a good candidate since they support the ethical and fair trade for Aboriginal art pieces. For more than 30 years, they have been helping Art Centers in mounting exhibits, spreading knowledge through Aboriginal Art Education, and preserving the rich culture and heritage of Aborigines through the support and sale of pieces that highlight Aboriginal Dot Painting, historical symbols, and designs based on Dreaming stories. Japingka has thousands of pieces under its care, from small and large paintings to art prints to Aboriginal artifacts. The online shop categorizes these pieces into groups that will make it easy to buy Australian Aboriginal art.
6. Aboriginal Art Galleries
If you are wondering where to buy Aboriginal art in Australia, look no further than the capital. Located in the heart of Sydney is the Aboriginal Art Galleries, an institution that has prided itself in supporting the indigenous art industry for more than 28 years. The team behind the Gallery is passionate about Aboriginal arts. They support local artists and their communities by having exhibitions both in their Sydney gallery and in shows in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United States. The art pieces come from the Aboriginal Art Centers, agencies that provide support for local artists. The Gallery is committed to the fair trade of Aboriginal arts, making sure that artists are paid for their work based on their artistic status, seniority, and other tangible factors such as quality and size of the artwork. Boasting of an expansive collection from almost a hundred artists, the Gallery is home to artifacts, paintings, crafts, glass, and ceramic pieces that are all inspired by the rich culture and heritage of the Aborigines.
7. Cooee Art Gallery
Supporting indigenous art since 1981, Cooee Art Gallery is the oldest fine art gallery showcasing Aboriginal art. The Gallery boasts of an impressive selection of indigenous sculptures, paintings, artifacts, prints, and handcrafted gifts housed in its two locations, Bondi Beach and Oxford Street in Paddington. The carefully curated exhibitions highlight the designs and products of the Aborigines. These exhibitions offer a glimpse of the culture and heritage of the different indigenous groups in the country. A guided exhibit tour is offered by the Consultancy arm of the Gallery to give you more knowledge on indigenous art. Direct sale and bidding are some ways to purchase art pieces from Cooee. Provenance, certificate of authenticity and artist profiles are provided to the buyers.
8. Aboriginal Contemporary
An establishment where each piece is handpicked by its owner, Aboriginal Contemporary in Bronte, Sydney is a place to get the best Aboriginal art in Australia. The gallery recognizes the history of the Aborigines, where art is central in their daily lives and where designs are stories that speak of their heritage. Contemporary Aboriginal art came about because of the merging of some Aboriginal language groups in the 1960s. Paintings and murals were used by the Aborigines to tell their stores and Dreaming tales. Established in early 2000, Aboriginal Contemporary aims to support local Aboriginal artists by buying directly from them or from local art centres. While many services are offered by Contemporary to prove the authenticity of purchase, at the heart of the business is the trust and confidence that art centres and Aboriginal artists have built with the gallery owner, a relationship that was built because of fair and ethical trade of art pieces and sincere love for Aboriginal art.
9. Spirit Gallery
Locals and foreigners alike will have an easy time visiting Spirit Gallery. Located in the Rocks Center in Sydney, the Gallery is widely known today as a specialty didgeridoo store, with its wide selection of accessories available for players and collectors alike. However, Spirit Gallery actually started as a small arts and craft store that sells Aboriginal art pieces. Since its establishment in 2002, it has now grown into a gallery that showcases Aboriginal art through a steady display of their stock. They don’t hold exhibitions or thematic curations. The pieces can be seen in the Gallery shelves and display areas every day. Sourced from community art centres, Spirit Gallery focuses on traditional and contemporary art pieces forming from different Aboriginal groups. They have a wide range of products that come at affordable prices. Pieces like boomerangs, paintings, carvings, glassware, and woven basket can be found in the Gallery for purchase of clients who want to support Aboriginal arts.
10. Tjanpi Desert Weavers
A social enterprise that helps the women of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yakunytjatjara (NPY) land, Tjanpi Desert Weavers combines education, support, fair trade and cultural preservation in one initiative. The NPY land covers more than 350,000 square kilometres in Central Australia. The officers of Tjanpi visit the different communities residing across the tri-state. During their visit, they bring art materials, hold workshops to develop skills, facilitate grass-collecting, and purchase finished work from the local artists. Native grasses are used by the Tjanpi artists to contemporary fibre art. Beautiful woven baskets and sculptures display the creativity of these Aboriginal artists. Apart from woven materials, Tjanpi also showcases jewellery, sculptures, books, and other merchandise in its Alice Springs gallery. Exhibitions and events are held to introduce the different Aboriginal groups of the NPY lands to more people, ensuring that customs and traditions will be passed down to generations to come.
Aboriginal art pieces are not just decorations for our homes. More importantly, they tell the story of the Aborigines who have been the custodians of Australian lands for the past 65,000 years. It is rich in culture and history, reminding us of times when communication is limited that emotions and stories are passed down through visual arts. There are many enterprises that support Aboriginal artists who sell their pieces in order to help their families and communities. We must always remember to verify the provenance and authenticity of the artwork that we purchase, ensuring that the establishments we buy from are advocates for the fair and ethical trading of Australian Aboriginal art.