Has the success of the Aboriginal art market 'exploited' and 'corrupted' Aboriginal culture?
Aboriginal art has always been about the heritage of the Aboriginal people. Their images convey stories about their country, their religious ceremonies, their past and their Dreaming.
Recently Aboriginal art has boomed within the art market, not only in Australia but overseas also. Auction sales have tripled in value and some paintings have reached record prices, no doubt this appears as a blessing for Aboriginal people finally gaining recognition.
However the art market is an international monetary system and where it converges with Aboriginal culture there are dislocations, a clash of meanings and priorities, and a misappropriation of their culture. A lot of non-Aboriginal people are unethically making a quick profit on Aboriginal culture at the expense of 'traditional' Aboriginal artists. For example; the vast majority of Aboriginal art products, particularly souvenirs are not made by Aboriginal people.
Moreover, non-Aboriginal people are using sacred motifs and symbols to paint pretty pictures. For example; Prince Harry as part of his art program at school created two Aboriginal inspired paintings, which are now worth fifteen thousand pounds each.
Art making for the Aboriginal people entails an importance greater than commerce and monetary value, which is cultural significance. Aboriginal culture has a history of being under threat, and as a result of the success in the art market Aboriginal culture has become exploited as a commodity and available for sale.