Nichola Dare from Aboriginal Contemporary shares her insight into what you need to know before buying Aboriginal art and the best part about working at the gallery.
Buying any kind of art can be daunting, but buying contemporary Aboriginal art can be particularly daunting. Is it authentic? What does it mean? Will the artist be paid fairly? Will it be a good investment? These are just some of the questions Nichola Dare is asked on a regular basis at Aboriginal Contemporary, her sandstone art gallery in Sydney’s beachside suburb of Bronte.
“Our vision is to make buying Aboriginal art as rewarding as owning it”, explains Nichola.“ A journey rather than a transaction. It has taken us ten years to build relationships with the artists and art centres we work with, so they will share with us their knowledge of culture and Country.”
“In turn, I have a responsibility to share their knowledge with our customers; to help them feel connected to the world’s oldest continuously-living culture through its art. There is so much we can learn from these amazing artists – about being connected, culture and respecting our environment.”
Following a series of sell-out exhibitions last year, Aboriginal Contemporary has another impressive exhibition program in place for 2021. The very best work from the most collectible artists is always in high demand and Nichola’s reputation as an ethical trader and her time on the ground in communities enables access to artists and artworks that some galleries could only dream of.
Nichola loves what she does, whether it’s sourcing and curating work for private collectors or helping someone buy their very first piece. But she makes no secret of the part of her job she loves most: travelling vast distances to remote communities in the Central and Western deserts or Arnhem Land. Several times a year Nichola hits the red dirt road to visit the art centres she works with and spend time with artists.
“It staggers me to think that some of the older artists we work with were ‘first contact’ – the first of their people to ever encounter Europeans. Some are now internationally-acclaimed artists who have exhibited at leading galleries in New York, Paris and London.”
“Then there is the new generation of Aboriginal artists – respecting ancient traditions but keen to make their own creative mark. I’m proud that our gallery has helped launch the careers of several artists who are now poised to take Aboriginal art into the future.”
Increasing desire to connect with Aboriginal art
For all its challenges, Aboriginal Contemporary regards 2020 as a pivotal year for Aboriginal art.
“We saw deeper connections to both the work itself and the way people buy it. We’ve been asked more questions about how the art is sourced and the ethical treatment of artists and communities. It’s clear that buyers are increasingly looking for a knowledgeable partner they can trust and we’ve felt more engagement and excitement in the sector than ever before.”
Is there anything Nichola doesn’t like about having a contemporary Aboriginal art gallery?
“I hate the idea of anyone not coming in because they felt intimidated or think their question is silly. “Seriously, ask me anything: What is an art centre? How do the artists get paid?’ ‘Do all paintings have dots?’ ‘What do indigenous people mean by ‘Country?’ ‘Have you got a blue one?’ There’s nothing I love more than talking about Aboriginal art. Your biggest problem is likely to be shutting me up.”
Aboriginal Contemporary follows strict ethical standards on the sourcing, handling and sale of Aboriginal art and is a member of the Indigenous Art Code, the industry body promoting fair and ethical treatment of artists and their communities.
Find out more: Aboriginal Contemporary
Feature image: Corban Clause Williams © Supplied/Aboriginal Contemporary
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