The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair has been busy building a global audience who have an eye for First Nations art.
Taking place annually on Larrakia Country, the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) has become a headlining celebration of First Nations art and culture not only here in Australia but, increasingly, around the world (thanks largely to its pivot to an online offering due to the ongoing pandemic).
Whilst Maggie Green paints at Spinifex Hill Studio in Port Hedland, her works and influence are on show at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair. (Image: Bobbi Lockyer)
A vivid coming together of artists, art lovers, performers, designers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Centres, the week-long fair, planned and executed by the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation, provides a vital forum for celebrating and elevating an ancient art form passed through millennia, as well as facilitating social and cultural interaction between First Nations people and communities from across the country.
Collectors, passionate enthusiasts and First Nations novices meet and learn from important artists at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair. (Image: Dylan Buckee)
Whether online or in person, the fair’s success at introducing a new audience to the beauty and drama of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, fostering greater recognition and understanding of its form, and creating economic benefits for artists and communities is unparalleled.
Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair is pioneering First Nations art in the digital space and finding new global audiences. (Image: Dylan Buckee)
The 2021 DAAF, which was the second in a row to take place exclusively online, hosted some 70 Art Centres and generated $3.12 million in sales, with 100 per cent of the money going directly back to the Art Centres and their communities. Over the past seven years, DAAF has generated more than $17.3 million for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art sector.
A piece by Lindy Brodie from Barkly Regional Arts. (Image: Barkly Regional Arts)
While DAAF has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2007, with record sales, an ever-expanding cultural program of artist talks, master classes, and the Country to Couture event showcasing unique fashion collections from First Nations designers and artists, as well as the introduction in 2020 of the National Indigenous Fashion Awards, the foundation’s work transcends the event itself, continuing for 365 days a year.
The not-for-profit Indigenous organisation is owned and governed by the Art Centres it represents, and works closely with them throughout the year. Art Centres occupy an important role within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, maintaining and strengthening cultural practices, offering safe and inclusive meeting places and providing invaluable access to training, education, career pathways and enterprise.
Contemporary First Nations art like these ghost net sculptures by Paul Jakubowski from Pormpuraaw Arts Cultural Centre are attracting a global audience to the Darwin Art Fair. (Image: Paul Jakubowski)
They also offer crucial economic benefits, both to the Indigenous art and craft industry and the health of the communities they are situated in, with sales resulting from Art Centres often providing the only externally generated source of income within communities. The economic independence this revenue provides contributes to ensuring that people can continue to live and thrive on their cultural and ancestral homelands, and results in the preservation of traditional practices, ceremonies, language, art and spirituality. They also deliver social benefits, from assistance with health and medical requirements, aged care services, family business, education, legal, transport and financial management issues.
The Country to Couture finale on stage at the Darwin Convention Centre. (Image: Dylan Buckee)
With plans well under way for a return to the Darwin Convention Centre on Larrakia Country 5-7 August next year for DAAF 2022, the foundation and its passionate and engaged staff will be working tirelessly each and every day until then to deliver a cultural spectacle that builds on – and betters – the successes of the past. Mark 5-7 August 2022 in your diary and clear some space on your wall.
The Country to Couture event brings designers and artists together, here Shadeene Evans wears the Vibrant Desert collection from the Papulankutja Artists collaboration with Black Cat. (Image: James Giles)
How to buy art ethically
One of the motivating principles of DAAF is to educate and encourage buyers to think and act ethically when it comes to purchasing Indigenous art. Buying art in person and online during the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair comes with the reassurance that no commission is charged, with all money going to the artists or Aboriginal-owned and operated community Art Centres.
Artists talk to collectors and buyers at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair. (Image: Dylan Buckee)
While this exacting standard ensures the relationships formed at DAAF between artists and art lovers are mutually beneficial and morally responsible, it also confirms the foundation’s focus on fostering an environment in which Indigenous artists’ depth of talent and craftsmanship is celebrated and appreciated. In fact, this is something the foundation champions 365 days a year, including by encouraging prospective buyers to be informed and guided by the Indigenous Art Code when adding to (or starting) their art collection. The code is designed to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists are treated fairly, honestly and respectfully when it comes to the buying and selling of their works, and poses a number of questions that every buyer should consider and ask before purchase, including how the artwork or product ended up in the gallery or shop, how the artist will be paid for their work, how long the gallery has been in business, and whether it is a member of the Indigenous Art Code (which means it has agreed to follow the Indigenous Australian Art Commercial Code of Conduct).
Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair’s great strength is to bring works by artists like Gladys Anderson and Ruth Dawson from Tartukula Art Centre in Tennant Creek together in one place. (Image: Will Thompson)
Asking as many questions as you need, doing research before buying, exploring opportunities to buy directly from Art Centres and receiving an official Art Centre Authentication Certificate for the purchase of works over $250 will ensure your newly acquired art work is as ethical as it is sure to be stunning.