Nicholas Rothwell from the Australian, previews the Telstra Indigenous Art Awards.

It is a fascinating article, well worth a long read:

The realities of the bush tend, though, to disrupt such fine ideas. Consider the far western desert, the golden home for much of today’s most admired indigenous art. Among the jewels at its heart are four very different art centres, near neighbours on the map, yet each pursuing its own distinctive approach to husbanding and selling works of Aboriginal culture. In Warburton, the little capital of the Ngaanyatjarra people, the long-established Art Project houses a permanent collection and specialises in community work. It rarely stages large selling shows: its art co-ordinator, Albie Viegas, devotes her most urgent efforts to young artists experimenting with film and video. Up the track, at Patjarr, a go-ahead new art centre, Kayili, is now run by Michael Stitfold, the canny “desert fox”, whose guiding hand has made his old artists into much-prized, much-collected stars. Across the Rawlinson Range lies Warakurna Arts, presided over by co-ordinator Edwina Circuitt, who routinely takes her artists, young and old, on painting and culture trips into deep country. In yet another model, lying just south is the little community of Wingellina, home of Irrunytju Arts: controlled today by the swooping hawk of the indigenous art domain, gallery owner John Ioannou. Ioannou is not a carpetbagger. He is a new entrant who has acquired established markets. As The Australian has reported, the tensions between Warakurna and Wingellina have recently spilled over, and it is this feud that lies behind the large-scale withdrawal by desert art centres from this year’s Telstra award. Under its entry terms, the award is “open to all adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists”. This year the display of 117 pieces accepted for the finals includes four Wingellina works. It was this decision that sparked the well-publicised silent protest by a group of leading art centres hostile to Ioannou.

An intense whispering campaign is under way to have adherence to the “voluntary” code of conduct made a condition of entry into the NATSIAA, in a bid to screen out the carpetbaggers or grey area operators, although a good number of artists who enter are city-based, versed in business and well able to decide their own commercial relationships.