Marie Geissler on collecting Aboriginal art

Described by renowned Australian art critic, Robert Hughes, as belonging to ˜the world’s last great art movement’, collectors of art from this extraordinary ancient but vibrant living culture have, in recent years, fuelled a boom in sales. Prices at auction have skyrocketed, and those who entered the market early have enjoyed great returns on their investments.

In 2006, Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s Earth’s Creation achieved a record of $1,056,000 at auction; the first million dollar plus sale at a Lawson-Menzies auction. Last year, Clifford Possum’s epic Warlugulong was sold at Sotheby’s to the National Gallery of Australia for $2.4 million.

Swept along by the wave of this success, and the expectations of rich rewards from investing in Aboriginal art, art aficionados have mined their savings for a piece of the action and purchased Aboriginal art for their superannuation and investment portfolios. This has been reflected in industry statistics which show that in 2007, secondary art market sales exceeded $25 million; and over recent years well over 40 records have been broken for the top performing artists.

Today, the all pervasive impact of the global financial meltdown has resulted in sales in all sectors “ including Aboriginal art “ dropping. Within this context, however, it’s well to remember that art provides a very stable haven for funds. If purchased wisely art can be a source of excellent return.

Today’s climate therefore is a great time to start collecting. It offers collectors a rare opportunity to buy well at auction and also through galleries.

But how do you begin collecting Aboriginal art? Before taking the plunge, savour first the pleasure you are about to enjoy. I strongly advise that this be an adventure of the heart; that you buy because you’re passionately in love with the work you wish to purchase. Because in the end, your artwork will be a constant companion; you will more than likely see it every day.