Art Centres

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ARTKELCH procures its art works exclusively from art centres which are owned and run by the artists or their communities.

These cooperatives, known as community-based art centres, play a decisive role in the transmission of cultural knowledge and the sustainability of the indigenous communities.

The motivation behind promoting art centre activities is the desire of the artists to take their destinies into their own hands, to develop job opportunities for their youth and to be able to live a life in self-determination on their homelands.

The leading artists work nonstop unless there is cultural business waiting, convinced that passing on their traditional knowledge to the younger generation is of prime importance. That way an art centre becomes the central hub of community life, where up to four generations gather to paint and sing and tell the stories of the Tjukurrpa (how the world came into being and how everything is interconnected) over and over again.

The sense of community is still at the forefront in all their artistic work, even though individual artists have made themselves a huge name in the art world.

In the artists’ cooperatives, part of the proceeds from art sales goes directly into community projects. These range from investment in health projects (e.g. prevention and education, mobile dialysis units etc.) to projects for young people and age care and to the promotion of new artistic talent.

How the monies are used is determined by a board of Aborigines, who employ an art centre manager (usually white), who then serves as the interface to galleries. They decide together what prices the works of art should be sold for.

The acquisition of art from such art centres is a clear statement as regards provenance, authenticity and ethical sourcing of Aboriginal Art. It’s therefore not surprising that museums and auction houses all over the world trust this provenance above all others – not least of all because of the prospect of market value retention. On the other hand, it does not mean, that an artwork without an art centre certificate is automatically a fake or not authentic or not ethically sourced.


At the other end of the ʺethical scaleʺ are the so-called carpetbaggers. They get artists, who are already quite well-known, to paint for them under degrading conditions for a pittance (often only 5% to 10% of the wall price in a gallery). This is not only questionable for moral reasons. Since the artist, far from home in some factory building (most of them are in and around Alice Springs) painting for quick money will most likely do a shabbier job than if he were on his homelands surrounded by family and the spirits of his ancestors. The works are therefore often of inferior quality and barely viable as an investment, even if they are thrown onto the market at similar or even higher prices.

So it pays to be alert and on your toes when buying Aboriginal art, particularly in cities and in tourist areas. Reputable galleries that source their art ethically are often located in outlying areas off the beaten track. On the other hand, galleries making enormous profits with their mass-produced wares from carpetbaggers, are more likely to be in expensive locations in city centres.

Artists from the remote APY Lands and Spinifex Country rarely paint for carpetbaggers, but artists from cooperatives close to Alice Springs like Papunya Tula or Warlukurlangu Artists often fall victim to unscrupulous dealers when they’re in town, so that provenance should always be scrutinized carefully when buying works by these artists.

We will gladly advise you for your Australian trip on how to avoid the traps and hurdles in this largely unregulated market and where to buy with confidence. Just give us a call.

Photos (from left to right):
Paddy Stewart © Warlukurlangu Artists
Robyn Kelch selecting paintings by Justin Corby at Ikuntji Arts © ARTKELCH
Artists at work on a collaborative painting for ARTKELCH © Mangkaja Arts