Martumili - Art Collector

Issue 47, January - March 2009

Featured as part of the annual special "50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2009"

From Alice Springs to Beijing, Martumili, one of the youngest of Australia’s 85 Aboriginal art centres, made quite an impression in 2008. Housed in a brand-spanking new art centre partly funded by BHP Billiton, Martumili services six communities in the Martu lands. As well as sell-out shows around the country, in 2008 Martumili ventured abroad, exhibiting 20 of their works in Beijing in the Canning Stock Route Project, which coincided with the Olympic Games.

“This was the work that got everyone excited, says Dallas Gold of Darwin’s Raft Art Gallery. “They’re just starting out and there’s a freshness to their work and the market responds to that.”
For Carly Lane, curator of Indigenous art at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, this freshness is indicative of a deeper vein of talent that is only now being tapped into.

“The new art centre is channelling the talent that’s out there and I’m sure that there’s greater essences we’ve not even seen yet,’’ says Lane, who was one of the key organisers of the inaugural Western Australian Indigenous Art Award.

According to Susan McCulloch, co-author of McCulloch’s Contemporary Aboriginal Art: The Complete Guide, Martumili works were in hot demand at Desert Mob in 2008. (Desert Mob is an exhibition of Western and Central Desert art, which is held in Alice Springs every September.)

“This is an important annual survey show and Martumili works were eagerly snapped up,” says McCulloch, who flags Nancy Chapman and Bugai Whylouter as artists to watch.

After making such a strong opening statement, Martumili now faces the challenge of producing work that is of consistent quality.
“The expectations are high after such a good beginning,” says Lane. “It’s important that they’re not too high. They’ve got their own journey to take.’’

Beverly Knight of Alcaston Gallery in Melbourne also sees consistency and quality as important qualities for Martumili to cultivate – particularly in a market that has changed radically in the past 12 months.

“There are fewer buyers and much more art,” says Knight. “In the current climate buyers have become more discerning…both art centres and gallerists have to keep up quality so that collectors can find inspiration in what has become a flooded market.”

Jane Hampson

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