Friday, September 5, 2008

Aboriginal Investment Art - Part IV

Before we have considered the subject of a painting, it;s style & the artist. In this part we will be considering the painting or artwork itself & how that may affect its future value. Firstly consider what material the painting is painted on. Is it paper, canvas, plastic or some other fabric. Some Aboriginal Art works, particularly by desert artists have been painted on some strange materials. While I suspect that in some cases this will improve their re-sale value, you also have to keep in mind how the work will last. Also what sort of paint etc has been used. Again - that can be interesting.

Many paintings, particularly designed for the export market are painted on un-stretched or partly stretched fabric. These need to be properly framed & sometimes that can be expensive & occasionally not possible to be framed properly. (If this is the case the canvas may be put behind glass & may be an uneven size - which can make it interesting!) If the painting is not going behind glass it should be sealed with a quality sealant. Unfortunately many Aboriginal artists fail to do this. Clear sealant can be purchased for any quality art supply store & is easy to do yourself - a soft brush is preferable. Apart from protecting the painting, a sealer makes it possible to clean the painting with a damp cloth if it gets dusty or dirty & also keeps the colours nice & bright. Sealers are available in matte, semi-gloss or full-gloss. In most cases I would recommend a semi-gloss, but any good art shop will advise. The worst thing I have heard of is t the rumour that went around a few artists that hairspray was a cheap sealer. While it works in the short time I'm told it is extremely harmful in the long term.

When deciding how much money to spend on a work remember the cost of framing if needed. Any work, if bought unframed should be professionally framed with 1 - 3 mattes. Perhaps try several colour options before deciding. Ochre colour mattes often work the best. Many of the works in my store are already framed. Horses in Kelp is an example of a painting professionally framed with 3 mattes all done in traditional Aboriginal colours. The professional framing of Horses in Kelp adds considerable beauty & value to a simple, but traditional & meaningful painting. Rosetta Dreaming is painted on a framed canvas & has been sealed properly by the artist. It is ready to hang as it is. Details of both paintings are available at

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Aboriginal Investment Art Part III

It is important to remember that there are many different styles of art throughout Australia. In pre-European times Aborigines painted on caves, bark, on sand and on their bodies. In additions to this the walls of our huts (the building of permant/semi-permanent dwellings was much more wide spread than commonly known) were decorated with art work, as were the possum skin fur coats some tribes wore. Implements for both play & work eg. didgeridoos & boomerangs were also decorated with art. It has been said that Aborigines devoted more time to art than any other race. Orche colours were the most common as they were available in most places. However other colours (even blue) were occasionally used, if there was an available source of that colour.

Art was often used to tell a story and for educational purposes. A painting that comes with a detailed story can be a good investment piece. Does the story match the "dreamings" of the area the artist is said to come from? Or is the painting for tourists? (Paintings from outback areas can be more 'fake' in this regard than urban Aboriginal art.) Educate yourself about the art that belongs to different areas of Australia. Even within areas, what are the tribal symbols? Are there any totems clans should or should not use? Does the subject of the painting match the sex of the artist? eg.a female should never include a didgeridoo in a paintings. In many (though probably not all) areas of Australia only female artists paint wombats and numbats. Women are also gatherers so often show more details of plants in their paintings. Men tend to have more landscape forms in paintings because hunting often occurs over a large area. Does the painting conform to what you have been able to learn about "genuine" works from that area? There are plenty of good reference books in libraries that will guide you. One tip you probably have never heard before is to examine "cave art" from the area of the artist. Cave Art is always an example of the authentic style of that area. The range of Native Australian Art is much wider than most people think. Dot Art is only one style; and is not as wide spread as is often thought. Though the Desert Artists are popular, Aboriginal Art from other areas is just getting to be better known, and could make an excellent investment piece. Genuine paintings are always painted from a certain angle; even landscapes by Aboriginal artists conform to this principle, which gives them their unique look. In this latter case, watch out for Aboriginal artists who make a point of proclaiming their university training. Most paint genuine art, but I have come across ones who seem to have lost the very basis. Fairer skinned Aboriginals are often expert traditional artists & many produce paintings worth $1,000s. Likewise a darkskinned person holding a painting doesn't mean that the painting is any good as an investement piece & doesn't even prove 100% that they are even the artist!

Look at the painting above Rosetta Dreaming. The artist comes from an area where Eastern Rosellas occur & she has used the traditional symbols to tell the lifecycle & story of the birds. She has used double dot work to show the brillant colours of the rosella. They are depicted nesting in hollow trees, eating grass seed & flying. She has used white dots to signify dreaming as they traditionally mean & has even given the painting a bit of a featherly look. Rosella Dreaming is a modern traditional paintings that expresses our culture well. More details of this painting are at