Artists outside art centres

Artists outside art centres Report

CRC-REP Research Report

  • Author(s): Acker, T, Stefanoff, L
  • Published: 2016
  • Publisher: Ninti One Limited
  • Volume: CR014

Abstract: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is a prominent industry in remote Australia, with two prevailing business models. The principal one is a community-owned and -governed art centre representing remote area artists who are mainly located in northern and central Australia. The alternative model sees (many fewer) independent artists working directly with private art businesses, either dealers or galleries, in the way most non–Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artists operate. Although innovations such as online sales and the growth of art fairs is changing the way artists sell and consumers buy, these two models remain dominant. This report presents research results drawn from surveys conducted with 57 independent Aboriginal artists in the Northern Territory, with a concentration in central Australia/Alice Springs. It seeks to provide some details about the little-known art-making and trade practices of artists who choose to work outside of art centres. The findings link to the wider work of the CRC-REP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Economies project (2011–16) that has investigated and reported on key parts of the supply chain linking remote area artists, art businesses and consumers. The aim of the Art Economies project is to generate evidence and information that assist the sector to understand and negotiate change and to support initiatives that build economic participation for remote area artists through the application of research results. Summary of findings: • Stability: Around 90% of independent Aboriginal artists have been working for five years or more and many for over 20 years. • Modest production and sales: Most artists work part time, with low levels of sales. In the week before their interviews, three-quarters of artists produced three or fewer works, and three-quarters earned $100 or less from art sales in the same period. • Confidence: Artists were largely confident in their professional choices and in navigating their different options for producing and selling artworks. • Risk: The risk of unfair or unethical treatment does not discourage artists from working independently and engaging directly with private art trading businesses. • Knowledge: Artists had low levels of wider professional or industry knowledge. • Trust: Some artists mistrust dealers and galleries, but this mistrust either did not dominate artists’ working lives or they were confident in managing their situation. • Trade practices: Around half of all artists have felt ‘ripped off’ at some point. In contrast, artists also reported few specific problems, and their responses indicated confidence in their ability to manage commercial relationships, including issues such as ‘book-up’. It is hoped that this research can be used to inform organisations whose work intersects with that of independent artists and that at an art industry level, a more informed and nuanced, less polarised debate might be possible.

Cite this document

Suggested Citation
Acker, T, Stefanoff, L, 2016, Artists outside art centres, Volume:CR014, Report, viewed 16 June 2024,

Endnote Mendeley Zotero Export Google Scholar

Share this page

Search again