An excerpt from Benjamin Genocchio’s new book, Dollar Dreaming, published in the Australian.

Quoted from the article:

What is different, even unusual, about Aboriginal art is that prices rose at all; after all, Australian art generally doesn’t have much of an international market and, until the mid-1990s, there was little in the way of a secondary market for Aboriginal art.

Foreign gallery representation remains elusive. Though the market is growing and many respected international dealers have shown Aboriginal art, very few of them have stuck with it. The Rebecca Hossack Gallery in London is one of the few galleries outside Australia to consistently show Aboriginal painting, though, like others, such as the Robert Steele Gallery in New York, the exhibition programs generally combine Aboriginal and other contemporary art.

There are no hard and fast figures on international sales of Aboriginal art, because nobody keeps tabs on exactly how much art is exported, what it is worth or where it goes. Some estimates put the figure as high as $250 million, though that also includes the trade in tourist art and artefacts.

However, anecdotal evidence would suggest that much of the international gallery trade is in low to mid-priced art. As the only dealer of notice in New York consistently showing Aboriginal art, Steele presents two or three exhibitions a year from different regions. He sells to American clients mostly, but occasionally gets people from Australia looking for a specific work, as well as expatriates living in the US who are already interested in Aboriginal art. He says he sells a lot of work for $US3000-$4000, and a few people buy works at the $US50,000-$80,000 level.

Hossack reports a similar experience. She presents two or three shows of Aboriginal art a year, as well as showing Aboriginal works at international art fairs. She has a large inventory, from which she sells to a cross-section of people, she says, noting that “clients buying Western art from us also buy Aboriginal art”.