An Indigenous art collective from outback Australia has opened up its own art gallery in Sydney, in a bid to bypass “dodgy” art dealers who are “ripping them off”.
The APY Lands Art Centre Collective gallery in Darlinghurst opened in the inner-city suburb on Friday night.
The new gallery will mean more money flowing back to Indigenous artists and their communities in the APY Lands, in far north South Australia, bordering the Northern Territory.
Though the lands have long been closed to visitors, unethical art dealers have been an ongoing problem.
Award winning artist Barbara Moore said dodgy dealers, dubbed “carpet baggers”, would scope out artists when they visited towns like Alice Springs.
“There’s a few white fellas going around searching for Aboriginal artists, mainly for the top artists,” she said.
Moore said the dealers would take around photos to help them identify the artists in town, then take them back to the dealer’s gallery.
She said artists would often get stuck in town, and opportunistic gallery owners would commission paintings worth thousands of dollars, while offering the artists only a small amount of money or a cheap and unreliable second-hand car.
Big artworks by top Indigenous artists can sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
“It’s not good for us for them to come and search, and it’s not right for them to come and do this,” Moore said.
‘A little bit of APY in Sydney’ says Indigenous elder
A group of artists and community elders travelled to Sydney for the opening of the gallery.
One director of the APY Lands Art Centre Collective, Nyurpaya Kaika Burton, said opening the new gallery was significant for everyone in the APY Lands.
“I’m extremely happy, so happy to be here. We’ve now got a little bit of APY in Sydney city,” she said speaking through a translator.
“One of the great things about having this space is that now we’re showing the world out culture, a little bit about it.”
Another director, Peter Mungkuri, said the new gallery would provide opportunities for younger artists in the APY Lands.
“For all our young emerging artists and also our young people in our communities, this space is for them. It’s about them being able to learn,” he said.
Another famous artist from the APY Lands, Yaritji Young, said having more control over how her work was sold would benefit her family.
“We always get upset when we see only a little bit of money for our painting. But now we want to see everything better, we want to get the money back for our grandkids.”