Nice article in The Age by Gabriella Coslovich celebrating the success of Desert Mob:

Running for 18 years, the exhibition, which shows the best and newest work of central desert artists, is so esteemed that when it opens the scramble to buy is akin to the Boxing Day sales. In searing 37-degree heat, a queue 300-strong snaked along the Araluen Art Centre waiting for the doors to open yesterday.

It was a blissful riot of paintings, sculptures, ceramics and even decorated guitars, among which it might be possible to find the next big thing in Aboriginal art. Shimmering sand hills, psychedelic snake dreamings, rippling green fields of bush tobacco, giant white cockatoos with bulging red eyes, vast blue expanses of the night sky scintillating with the stars of the Milky Way, soft sculptures of echidnas, long wooden snakes ” for a collector or dealer, the choice at Sunday’s opening was overwhelming. Indeed, buyers have been known to gatecrash the media preview, hoping to sneak a look at what’s for sale, giving them a leaping start when the buying spree begins.

Inside, the centre glowed with the dynamism and power of indigenous art, pulsating with colour and energy.

Here was the visual expression of a traditional culture’s resilience, spirit and joy ” as much was clear in the faces of the Aboriginal artists in attendance.

In contrast to the radiance of the art is the dark undercurrent of conflict, politics and cutthroat competition that an industry as lucrative as this inevitably provokes. Last year, the turnover from sales of all Aboriginal art at auction alone was $23.6 million ” in 1988 the figure was $666,000.

About 6000 to 7000 Aboriginal people, about one quarter of Australia’s total indigenous population, are engaged in making art and artefacts, with sales of their work in 1996 estimated at more than three times that of other Australian artists.