Art plan tackles ‘offensive’, fake indigenous art

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Minister Paul Fletcher

IN a Facebook event live-streamed from the National Gallery of Australia earlier this morning (September 2), federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher with Indigenous Minister Ken Wyatt announced that the Morrison Government would develop an Indigenous Visual Art Action Plan.

The Morrison Government will also table its response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs’ “Report on the Impact of inauthentic art and craft in the style of First Nations peoples”, or fake art, which Minister Fletcher characterised as “abhorrent and offensive”.

The online event was hosted by the gallery’s new assistant director of indigenous engagement Bruce Johnson-McLean, who spoke of the potential for empowerment of First Nations people thought art, before introducing the artist Alison Milyika Carroll, caretaker of Ernabella Arts.

Alison Milyika Carroll, caretaker of Ernabella Arts, speaking by video link

Ms Carroll, speaking by video link from the APY Lands in the north west of South Australia, traced the history of art among Aboriginal women, saying: “Our culture is very powerful, people want to listen to us and learn.”

Minister Wyatt took to the virtual podium to say art was central to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander way of life, allowing communities to tell their stories and develop a shared understanding of Australia’s history for non-indigenous Australians and people around the world.

Minister Fletcher said the Indigenous Visual Art Action Plan would recognise the significant importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture, adding: “Australian Indigenous visual art is highly sought after both in Australia and abroad for its quality, innovation and cultural richness… It also strengthens economic opportunities for communities by providing employment, skills development and income.”

Outlining the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous art centres, Minister Fletcher invited all interested stakeholders to have their say to inform the action plan. That would, he said, help the sector recover from COVID-19 and achieve maximum benefit for artists and their communities.

The plan, he said, would be designed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and the visual arts community.

Ministers have already launched a consultation paper that will be used to support this co-design process. This process would build on important work undertaken through the inquiry into the report on the impact of inauthentic art and craft in the style of First Nations peoples.

“The Government has a number of initiatives underway to better safeguard indigenous art including a digital labelling trial and additional funding to support the Indigenous Art Code, in collaboration with the states. The plan we are announcing today is part of our response to this report,” Minister Fletcher said.

As for consultation, Minister Wyatt said they wanted to hear from “stakeholders across the indigenous visual arts sector — artists, art centre directors and managers, arts workers, art dealers, gallerists, art market professionals, purchasers, collectors, industry bodies or peak bodies representing these groups”.

The consultation closes on December 18 and the action plan is expected to be released in 2021. To participate and access the report on fake art, visit arts.gov.au

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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