If that name sounds like an official institution set up by some government quango, it is possible that was the intention. In fact, it’s the baby of the ever-dynamic Melbourne (and New York) dealer D’Lan Davidson. Though he was beaten to the punch in announcing his offspring by his good mate in America, Steve Martin, the comic actor, writer, and ardent art collector.
A day or so before Davidson’s Australian announcement, US newswires told me that Martin has helped launch a new fund to support Australian Indigenous artists. NEIVA is organized by Melbourne gallerist D’Lan Davidson, a specialist of (sic) Australian Indigenous art, and backed by Swiss private equity fund manager and art collector Bruno Raschle.
You will no doubt recall that last December Mr Raschle took over a large chunk of the iconic Kelton Collection of First Nations art for a sum believed to be around US$10m.
NEIVA aims to build a sustainable market for the country’s Indigenous artists”both in Australia and overseas ”and develop an First Nations arts network at home that includes education for youth and career mentoring for emerging artists in Australia.
Following an initial investment by Raschle and Martin, the program’s partners hope NEIVA will generate its own revenue stream from art sales. Davidson’s Armadale gallery currently offers every seller on the secondary market the possibility of donating 2.5% of their proceeds in a Voluntary Resale Royalty, which the gallery matches up to 5%. This initiative has contributed $56,000 back to the artists and their estates, in effect more than doubling the $43,721 the gallery has paid via the Government’s mandatory Resale Royalty scheme.
With the launch of the new initiative, the gallery will donate 2.5“10% of future sale proceeds from both primary and secondary art market sales to the fund, depending on the nature of the transaction. Primary art market sales, for instance, will attract the full 10%. NEIVA will be independently managed by Australian Executor Trustees and annual distributions will be guided by an independent committee comprised ofÂ Indigenous visual art leaders.
NEIVA will support important programs such as ANKA’s Art Worker Extension Program and the Desart Art Worker Program, which both offer Indigenous arts professionals career training and mentoring, as well as opportunities to connect with National and State cultural institutions.
Steve Martin has been an strong advocate for Aboriginal art since acquiring his first piece in 2015, an op-art work by Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri. The painting occupies a place of honour in Martin’s collection, which also includes works by non-Indigenous masters like Francis Bacon, Edward Hopper, and Lucian Freud. In 2019, Martin and Davidson organised a special exhibition of contemporary Indigenous Australian painting with Gagosian’s New York gallery “ later in Hong Kong. The show, entitled ‘Desert Painters of Australia’, showcased works by some of Australia’s most important artists, such as Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Yakultji Napangarti, Bill Whiskey and George Tjungurrayi.
In Australia, D’Lan Davidson’s announcement explained: Whilst art sales are often the primary source of non-government income for remote Indigenous Australian communities, the existing primary and secondary Indigenous art market does not generate sufficient revenue to support both the artists and their working communities. He went on to add, I am also delighted to share the news that the launch of NEIVA coincides with the opening of our new gallery space in Melbourne CBD at 40 Exhibition Street, and a move into the primary market and artist estate management. This move will see our annual exhibition program broaden to incorporate a series of survey exhibitions thatÂ will highlight the work of a select group of important Australian Indigenous artists and estates whose work did not receive adequate representation and recognition during their lifetime.
Coincidentally, Davidson received a nice mention in the ‘Australian Financial Review‘, which was assessing the prospects for a boom in First Nations art sales in 2021. Beginning with 2020’s successes, the article continued: The resurgence was helped along by two local dealers who pushed Aboriginal art on the international stage: Melbourne-based D’Lan Davidson held exhibitions in New York and forged ties with contemporary art giant Gagosian, and Sydney specialist Tim Klingender, senior consultant of Australian art to Sotheby’s New York, racked up a second dedicated Aboriginal Art sale for the international auction house.
The Aboriginal art market is expected to continue its charge this year. Sotheby’s is planning another dedicated Australian Aboriginal art auction in New York in November. Closer to home, Deutscher and Hackett’s first major auction for the year, on March 17, is again of Aboriginal art, a sign of the company’s continued confidence in the market, amid increasing competition.
And, amongst that competition, the long-established Leonard Joel auction house has decided to launch dedicated Indigenous art auctions, probably at a lower price range, and, oddly, without an Aboriginal art specialist on their team. The company will hold its inaugural sale of Indigenous art – a surprisingly rich selection – next Wednesday in Melbourne.
Artist: Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Yakultji Napangarti, Bill Whiskey, George Tjungurrayi,
Gallery: Deutscher and Hackett ,