Image Credit: Josephine Mick paints at Kutjanu Homelands. Photo by Meghan Hansen.
69 Art Centres
More than $2.6 million in sales
Over 44,500 unique online visitors
The 2020 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) has much to celebrate!
In a usual year, DAAF is held in Darwin, on Larrakia Country, and brings together artists and arts lovers in a shared passion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. But this was not a usual year. And so, like so many other cultural events, DAAF went digital in 2020.
Words | Camilla Wagstaff.
The digital platform was pulled together in under three months by the small but enthusiastic Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation team. The online Fair sought to enable anyone, anywhere, to ethically purchase artwork direct from Indigenous-owned Art Centres across Australia. A whopping 69 Art Centres participated in the digital fair, uploading more than 6,000 stunning works from 1,335 First Nations practitioners.
“It was a massive learning curve to be involved in delivering DAAF online, a new platform for all of us, and very successful,” notes Caroline Hunter, manager at Artists of Ampilatwatja. “The DAAF staff did a stellar job in delivering the platform and offering consistent support.”
Image | Julieanne Ngwarraye Morton, My Country and Bush Medicine Plants, Acrylic on Linen, 91cm x 61cm, 2019, Photo credit Caroline Hunter
“There are inevitable challenges with ambitious new platforms like this, but all in all it was great to be a part of a program which adapted to face the unique challenges of 2020,” adds Hannah Raisin, Manager at Jilamara Arts and Crafts Association. “Like everything this year, the need to maintain complete flexibility, continue to adapt and meet fast turnarounds was inevitably part of our 2020 DAAF experience.”
“The platform itself was easy to use and although there were some minor glitches, the whole experience was pretty seamless,” adds Nicole Chaffey, Manager at Baluk Arts in Victoria.
Running 6 to 16 August, DAAF 2020 clocked an amazing 45,000 visits from across Australia and further abroad. And people weren’t just there to look. Fair organisers tallied more than $2.6 million in sales.
Trevor van Weeren, Manager at Gapuwiyak Culture and Arts Aboriginal Corporation, estimates that Gapuwiyak alone made more than $40,000 in on-platform and offline sales, while Warlayirti Artists Manager Poppy Lever says that Warlayirti Artists hit its highest grossing month in almost 10 years.
Hannah Raisin says that Jilamara almost doubled sales from previous fairs. “On a number of occasions, we needed to upload more works to meet the positive responses of customers! We believe the terrific success of the program is tribute to the artists, dynamism of the industry and excitement of the Australian people to celebrate Indigenous art.”
Image | Raylene Miller, Columbiere Tipungwuti, Raelene Kerinauia, Pedro Wonaeamirri and Timothy Cook, 2019, Photo Will Heathcote, Courtesy of the artists and Jilamara Arts
Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre Manager Joann Russo notes that Girringun sent purchased works as far as the Netherlands, and describes the Art Centre’s sales as “Amazing … our aim was to make at least one sale, given the current circumstances our industry is facing. Every day we logged-in, it was like a joyous celebration.”
Important to note here is that when people purchase works through an Art Centre, they can be assured that their money is going directly to the artists and their communities (DAAF takes no commission on sales, either). So, this sales success is a much-needed boon to what has been an incredibly difficult year for our First Nations communities.
“For some communities, Art Centres are the only Aboriginal-owned, culturally relevant economy available. It is a place for healing, mental health, culture, and independence,” says Poppy. “It was fantastic to be able to show artists throughout the week how sales were going, all their hard work paying off and money coming in for their families.”
Image | Above: 2020 DAAF sold artworks from Bábbarra Women’s Centre, Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation. Photo courtesy of @Babbarradesigns on Instagram. Below: 2020 DAAF sold artworks from MI Art. Photo by John Armstrong.
Nicole Chaffey of Baluk Arts in Victoria, who also celebrated strong sales, adds that “while sales may translate directly to money in the bank for our artists, what [DAAF also does] is provide artists with confidence and pride in their work. It is validation that their work is appreciated and loved enough that someone wants to display it in their home, have it in their collection or wear it with pride.”
“We were blown away by the response from the public when the fair opened,” adds David Wickens, Co-ordinator at Buku-Larrŋggay Mulka Art Centre. “We are so grateful for their support during these challenging times and are now beavering away getting everything packaged and on its way to its new home.”
The digital fair was complimented by a Public Program, which included artist masterclasses, food experiences, performances and concerts, talks and demonstrations – all innovatively adapted to an online mode. I was lucky enough to attend the Tjanpi Desert Weavers artist masterclass via Zoom, with around 20 other people from across Australia. We wove baskets under the careful guidance of weaving master artists, Margaret and Margaret, sharing our stories and laughing, connected though physically apart. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience, and I left with a few new friends, a smile on my face, and a new basket to display in my home.
Image | Art Collector team participating in the Tjanpi Desert Weavers workshop at DAAF 2020. Photo courtesy of Camilla Wagstaff.
With the success of the digital fair behind them, DAAF participating Art Centres look forward to 2021, and what they hope can be a physical fair. “I’m sure like many Art Centres, DAAF is one of the most significant sales events in our year,” says Baluk’s Nicole Chaffey. “In attending the fair, the sense of belonging to the wider Aboriginal community that we experience is so nourishing and reinvigorating. We always return home with cherished new friends and knowledge that our community at home can also share in. DAAF always feels like family.”
Image | The DAAFF team in Darwin – Shilo McNamee, Mandy Tripcony & Nina Fitzgerald. Photo by Mel Brautigam (who is also from the DAAFF Darwin team!)
Dave Wickens agrees, noting that while Buku very much “enjoyed participating in the 2020 online fair… we missed having direct contact with people who we love to share our stories and artworks with.”
As Caroline Hunter concludes: “When DAAF is in situ, artists attend and enjoy the entire program. They become involved in bump in and bump out, curating programs, workshops, fashion parades and are an integral part of the energy generated during the few days of DAAF. We can’t wait for 2021.”
See You Next Year!
Save the date; 6-8 August 2021