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Dodgy art deals on Leichhardt Council’s radar

Dolly Snell was the winner of the 2015 Telstra Award Mangkaja is Aboriginal owned and governed art centre Works sourced from Mangkaja have excellent provenance. Source: Dolly Snell Jukuja, Kurtal © Dolly Snell/Mangkaja Arts. Licensed by Viscopy.

A panel discussion about the ethics of buying and selling Indigenous art will take place in Leichhardt to address community concerns over recent unethical sales of indigenous art.

The panel discussion, which will take place at Leichhardt Town Hall on September 17, will be moderated by prominent author and advertising writer Jane Caro, and feature indigenous art experts as well ethicist Christian Barry.

Leichhardt Greens Mayor Rochelle Porteous said the convening of the forum was in response to growing unease about unethical business practices surround Indigenous art.

“Leichhardt Council is trying to address concerns within the community around unethical trade of Indigenous art, while also providing a platform for discussion and learning,” Clr Porteous told City Hub.

City Hub understands that there had been some members of the community who had raised concerns about potentially unethical vendors in the Leichhardt LGA.

Clr Porteous said it was important for council to play a role in educating the public about ethical art buying and selling practices.

“Over the past year, pop up and online auctions have been identified as a potential source for forgeries, and purportedly Indigenous artworks have been the source of ‘buyer beware’ warnings or withdrawn from auction due to concerns about the legitimacy of their source,” Clr Porteous said.

“The exploitation of Aboriginal artists affects the artists, the buyers of their art and the wider community,” she said.

Leichhardt Council appreciates and respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and wants to assist a discussion that Indigenous artists have been talking about for decades.”

Indigenous Art Code CEO Gabrielle Sullivan said that Indigenous artists live and work all over the country, including in the city, the bush, the desert and the Torres Strait.

“We need to celebrate the diversity of Indigenous visual arts practice and address the ongoing issue of unethical trade,” she said.

The alarm had been raised by pop up sales and online auctions over the past year.

Works which had been flagged had subsequently been withdrawn from auction.

Ms Caro and Mr Barry will be joined on the panel by curator Franchesca Cubillo, artist Elizabeth Marrkily Ellis, collector Geoff Hassall, as well as art dealers Christopher Hodges and Adrian Newstead.

The Forum will be hosted by Leichhardt Municipal Council, in conjunction with Indigenous Art Code and the Eastern Region Local Government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Forum (ERLGATSIF).

The hosts are dedicated to helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and seek to shed light on the conversation Indigenous artists have voiced for decades.

ERLGATSIF, which is a partnership between the councils of Leichhardt, City of Sydney, City of Botany Bay, Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra, said that their group recognised that the authenticity issue affects communities across the wider region.

The Indigenous Art Code was formed in 2009 following a federal senate inquiry into Indigenous Art practices.

The organisation has partnered with local government to educate and inform consumers on purchasing Indigenous art ethically.

The organisation said they are providing a structure for dealers to promote ethical practice, respecting the significant contribution that Indigenous artists make to the Australian visual arts sector, the economy and society as a whole.

The discussion will take place at Leichhardt Town Hall on Thursday September 17 at 6.45pm.

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