Knowing where to start if you want to buy aboriginal paintings can be tricky. Stories of bad business practices and unfair treatment of artists can make it even harder. How can you be sure that the piece of art you’re thinking about buying was produced and sold ethically? Can you tell who made it, what it signifies, and if the artist was paid fairly?

To begin, knowing who is selling the artwork is essential. It could be a gallery, a consultant, a dealer, or a freelancer in the art world. 

  • Art centres owned and managed by Aboriginals aim to produce and distribute ethically generated indigenous art. They also provide opportunity, training and career development for active Aboriginal artists and arts workers. Art centres mediate the relationship between creatives and cultural institutions like museums and galleries.
  • Art galleries exhibit works, connect artists and the press and sell pieces to the general public to increase their clients’ work exposure. Galleries frequently curate their shows or collaborate with other institutions to acquire the works on display.
  • Consultants and dealers are like galleries in every way, except they don’t need to rent an exhibition space or rely on art centres to consign works to them. Often, people develop their contacts with artists, not through art centres.

3 Steps to Follow When Buying an Aboriginal Painting

Here are some basic pointers to follow so you can buy Aboriginal paintings confidently after you know who you’re dealing with.


Talk to as many individuals as possible in the vendor you’re thinking about purchasing from. You should know if the artists are paid fairly. If the person is reluctant to share information, that can be a caution. Find out about the piece, the artist, the gallery, and the neighbourhood. You can gauge their commitment to the community/artist/art centre.

Feel free to inquire about the percentages received by the gallery or dealer, the art centre, and the artist. In most cases, the gallery gets a smaller portion of the sale price than the artist. However, art dealers and private sellers have complete leeway in setting prices for their wares.

Certificate of Authenticity

Art centres create certificates of authenticity to accompany works of art to verify their legitimacy and provenance. The certificate will include information about the art centre, the artist, and the artwork, but not the gallery or consultant. Certificates from various art centres may differ in appearance but contain the same essential information:

  1. Artist’s name.
  2. Ethnicity, language background, and place of birth.
  3. Label for the artwork.
  4. The painting’s dimensions.
  5. The catalogue number. This number identifies the painting, the artist, the art centre, and the date it was created.

Keep an Eye Out for Fakes

Aboriginal artists are frequently taken advantage of when their work is copied by other Aboriginals and people of different cultural backgrounds. When artists are in a financial pinch, they might undervalue their work to move it quickly. The term “carpetbagger” describes people who unfairly profit from sales. They undercut creators by offering less money for artworks than the market would bear. The artist, the work, and the people who help artists succeed are all devalued by this practice.


If you buy aboriginal paintings produced or sourced unethically, you are doing the artist and the art market a disservice. Consultants, galleries, and art centres all put in a lot of labour to promote and help artists succeed by entering their work in competitions, holding exhibitions, and publishing critical analyses of the works. Thus, you must follow the above guidelines and buy genuine aboriginal paintings.

By Manali

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