Fake Artist Finally Stopped – artmarketblog.com
A year or so ago I was made aware of a non-Aboriginal Australian artist who was passing himself off as an Aboriginal Australian artist and making quite a bit of money in the process. The artist in question was born in Sydney but spent time during his teenags years at a school in a particular area of Australia’s Northern Territory that has produced many of the most well known and highly valued Aboriginal Australian artists. According to this artist’s profile on the website of the gallery that represents him, during his time in the Northern Territory he was exposed to the artistic practise of the indigenous people and was later taught to paint in the traditional Aboriginal x-ray style by an Aboriginal Elder. The art gallery that was selling the work of this fraud did nothing to alert potential customers to the fact they might be purchasing works of art that looked the same as that produced by geniune Indigenous artists but were by an artist who was not an Aboriginal Australian. Because a style of painting is not protected under Copyright Law it is not illegal as such for this artist to paint in the style of Aboriginal artists, but it is illegal for the artist to promote himself and present himself as an indigenous artist when clearly he isn’t.
After many years of misleading the public and misrepresenting himself, this artist was reported to the the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission who agreed with the complaints that had been made, and consequently put measures in place to stop this artist continuing the misleading and deceptive practices that led to the complaints. Because the investigation is ongoing I will not mention any names but will refer to the person in question as “the artist”. The artist and the gallery that represented the artist were not particularly pleased about the ruling but when an artist is clearly exploiting the culture and artistic practice of the Australian Aboriginal people for their own financial gain there is no other option but to put a stop to it. Instead of being unhappy about the ruling the gallery should instead be glad that they have the chance to regain their credibility after their reputation was tarnished because of their association with a fake Aboriginal artist.
There have been many different cases such as the one I have described above. On of these was the case against Australian Aboriginal Art Pty Ltd who were accused of selling souvenir items which were promoted as being made by Aboriginal artists and were “certified authentic” when in fact they were not. It was found that a majority of the artists who produced the souvenirs were not Aboriginal, or of Aboriginal descent, and that there was no authentication process that could justify the label “certified authentic” which resulted in a ruling that the practices of the company selling the items were in contravention of the Trade Practices Act.
It is extremely unfortunate that there are people out there who are willing to exploit the artistic talents of other artists for financial gain, especially when they are taking money away from a people who are in desperate need of the money. One can only hope that with more education and information people will become aware of this problem and report people who are selling fake Aboriginal art and souvenirs.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.