IartC acknowledges the Traditional Owners and custodians of Country throughout Australia. We recognise their continuing connection to the land, waters and skies, often expressed through art.

Art buyers play an important role in ensuring artists get a fair go.

Juluwarlu sales team at Fremantle Art Centre Bazaar 2021 (all wearing The Yulura and The Rain tee by Sharona Walker). Left to right: Landon Punch, Lorraine Coppin, Gabby Howlett, Courtney McKay and Monique McKenzie. ©Juluwarlu Art Group/Copyright Agency, 2022.

Art buyers play an important role in ensuring artists get a fair go.

*Fair: without cheating or trying to achieve unjust advantage.

There are thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists across the country. Many are members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned art centres, and many work independently of an art centre’s structure and support.

The Indigenous Art Code does not suggest that purchasing from any single source is superior to another. As a buyer of art, we encourage you to learn about the business model of any dealer you plan to purchase from and how this informs their relationship with the artist.

Artists should be empowered in their decision making regarding commercial agreements and be able to negotiate the market on their terms.

Ask Questions

Look for and purchase from members of the Indigenous Art Code (IartC). Dealer members of the Indigenous Art Code must adhere to, and demonstrate a commitment to, upholding the ethical standards laid out in the Code.

We encourage consumers, irrespective of where and how they purchase artwork (in person or online), to do their research, inform themselves about the artists and their communities and to ask questions.

Three good questions to start with are: 

  1. Who is the artist?
  2. Where is the artist from?
  3. How does the artist get paid?

More questions to consider asking

~ If the artwork is a reproduction, which might include homewares and textiles, how are royalties or licensing fees paid to the artist?

~ Is there a licensing agreement in place with the artist? 

~ How long has the business been in operation? If the business suddenly appeared from nowhere, where were they, or what name were they trading under, before?

~ Is the business a member of the Indigenous Art Code? If yes, you know it has agreed to follow the guidelines of the Code.

~ How was the artwork or product supplied to the gallery or shop for purchase- is it on consignment, or does the seller own the artwork? Consignment means the dealer has not bought the artwork upfront, the artist still owns the artwork and the dealer has an agreement with the artist to pay a set percentage of the retail price once the artwork is sold. If the dealer owns the artwork the artist has less, or often no, control over what price it is sold to you for.

Power Imbalances

Power Imbalances

Edited Image

IartC promotional poster, featuring artwork by Kalkadoon woman Bree Buttenshaw aka Little Butten. ©Bree Buttenshaw/Indigenous Art Code. Photo: Cole Baxter.

Our experience is of a market in which most dealers behave fairly and ethically most of the time, but there are still too many instances of artists being subject to problematic and exploitative behaviour by some individuals.

The common characteristic of problematic behaviour raised with the IartC is coercion by the individual in the perceived position of power.

The power imbalance in this sector is real and one which many artists are subject to. Any individual or business engaging in the exhibition, promotion and sale of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander art should be cognisant of this.

Valuing and appreciating art extends to respecting culture and creating safe environments for artists to freely engage in and express their artistic and cultural practice.

Edited Image

IartC promotional poster, featuring artwork by Kalkadoon woman Bree Buttenshaw aka Little Butten. ©Bree Buttenshaw/Indigenous Art Code. Photo: Cole Baxter.

Ethical dealers will be happy to answer your questions

Aboriginal Art Co 0236

Shopping at Aboriginal Art Co gallery and store, Meanjin (Brisbane). ©Aboriginal Art Co/Indigenous Art Code 2023. 

Ethical dealers will be happy to answer your questions

Making sure you buy ethically is not just about protecting your own investment. It’s about respecting the world’s oldest living culture, ensuring the artists are paid fairly and securing a sustainable future for Australia’s Indigenous art industry.

Artists have a right to know the payment structure, or ‘money story’, for their art and buyers can ask too. Most ethical dealers are open about their business models and will be happy to answer any questions you have about: 

  • The artist – their artwork, history and community
  • How long the gallery has been working with the artist or art centre
  • How the dealer sources art, and how it pays the artists
  • How much of the sale price goes to the artist

Use your instincts

Some things to look out for which may be indicators of unethical dealing can include:

  • A lack of artist attribution. An artwork should always be accompanied by clear acknowledgement of the artist/s who created it, whether it is an original work of art or a reproduction. For example, merchandise such as bags, scarves, jewellery, homewares and artefacts that are manufactured overseas and do not attribute an artist are cause for concern.
  • If the dealer is trying to prove the provenance of artworks using photos of artists holding the work, rather than official certificates of authenticity.
  • A dealer’s willingness to ‘do a deal for you’. Ethical galleries usually use a sales model that returns a consistent percentage to the art centre and artist. Offering a significant discount to close the sale can be a red flag- who wears the price reduction, the dealer or the artist?

If a dealer is not open with you about how they source artwork or their relationship with the artist, and they are unwilling to answer your questions, it may be a signal to walk away.

Frequently asked questions

What is a certificate of authenticity?
How does purchasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art ethically support artists?
How do I know the sale price of the artwork is fair to the artist?
What should I do if I bought an artwork and afterwards discovered the business wasn’t dealing ethically with the artist?