2008 Aboriginal Art Awards – artmarketblog.com
Well, today is my last day in the extremely beautiful Darwin which, as well as being the capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory, is the centre of the world renowned Australian Aboriginal art movement. Last night at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, the winners of the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award were announced during an outdoor celebration which took place in a spectacular location on the edge looking out onto the water which framed a brief but mesmerising Darwin sunset. The Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award is a really big deal for the Australian art market as well as for Australia’s Indigenous artists many of whom live in third world conditions. A first price of $40,000 is a lot of money in anyone’s books but for someone living in a remote desert community where many of the residents still live a very traditional lifestyle that involves periods of “going bush” (periods of living out in the bush as the Aboriginal did prior to the occupation of their country by white people). Winning a Telstra Art Award pretty much guarantees that the value of that artist’s work will be increase in value and desirability so every one who is anyone in the Australian art market has their radar tuned into the awards. If you are wondering how important the Australian Aboriginal Art movement is to the art world then consider that Australian Aboriginal culture can claim to be the oldest continuous living culture on the planet (more info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Aboriginal_art
Although I had already spent three days wondering around the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair I was saving my money for the last day of the fair which was also the day after the announcement of the winners of the Aboriginal art awards. The reason that I was saving my money was that many of the artists whose work had been entered into the award was available at the fair meaning that the likelihood of me picking up a work by a winner of an award at the fair before the price of that artist’s works reflected the accolade. Sure enough, works by all of the artists who won one of the four awards on offer were available to be purchased from one of the art centres who were represented at the Darwin Art Fair. My recent interest in some of the amazing prints being produced by Aboriginal artists had me particularly excited about finding out who the winner of the works on paper section of the awards would be. To my delight, the winner was a world renowned Torres Strait islander artist by the name of Dennis Nona who also won the overall award last year. Having seen a Dennis Nona print available for sale at the Darwin Art Fair the previous day I knew that this was the work I would be spending my money on, if it was still available. Luckily for me the one and only Dennis Nona print for sale at the fair was still available when I arrived at the fair and was in my possession a short time later. Suffice to say I was extremely pleased with what is a beautiful work of art and a great investment.
According to the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory website, “The $4,000 Telstra Works on Paper, was awarded to Dennis Nona from Badu Island, Torres Strait, Queensland, for his etching on paper, Dugam. Winner of last year’s $40,000 Telstra Award for his 3.5m bronze crocodile Ubirikubiri, Dennis is widely acknowledged as an important Torres Strait Islander artist. His entry in this year’s award is named after the star that is visible in the early morning sky for about two weeks during August and September. Its presence tells the Torres Strait Islanders that it is the time to harvest the wild yams, kutai, gabau and saurr”. Dennis’s work is is held in most major Australian art institutions and in a number of important overseas collections including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Victoria and Albert Museum London, British Museum, London and Cambridge University Museum, UK.
To see more info on the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award check out these links:
Image one: Winner of the 2008 Telstra Art Award, Makinti Napanangka
Image two: Dennis Nona – Dugam, Etching on paper
**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