You might have come across the Indigenous Art Code or its logo and may wonder about our association. Yes, we are members. However, we believe there are more ways to measure ethicality.
The concept of a code of conduct, in our view, is a pivotal step for the Aboriginal Art Industry. ART ARK® is committed to engaging with this initiative and offering our services to support it. From our perspective, we always recommend doing your own research when buying Aboriginal Art.
Now, a quick analogy: our minds often rely on shortcuts to navigate the myriad of decisions we face daily. For instance, spotting a 4-star cheese in a health rating system instantly signals a healthier option to many. This mental shortcut, known in behavioral science as a heuristic, allows quick decisions with minimal effort. Just as some might not delve deep into the health rating system, many might not thoroughly investigate the Indigenous Art Code. Do you rely solely on their logo when purchasing Aboriginal Art?
The Indigenous Art Code, initiated in 2010 by NAVA and later supported by the Australia Council for the Arts, is a member-driven proprietary company. It was established to address unethical trading in Aboriginal Art. This voluntary code was introduced during my tenure at an Aboriginal Art centre in the Kimberley. At that time, I pondered how the effectiveness of a voluntary art code could be fortified.
Fast forward five years, and ART ARK® began operating in an evolving industry. We hold the firm belief that people would seize the opportunity to ethically support and celebrate Australia’s First Nations People. Yet, years later, some concerns remain.
While the Indigenous Art Code champions members with good intentions, the mechanisms to ensure these intentions translate into actions are somewhat lacking. Thus, ART ARK® believes there's more to ethical buying than just adhering to the Indigenous Art Code.
Please view the Indigenous Art Code.
This is the most relevant area of the code relating to ethical trading;
2.1 Dealer Members Must Act Honestly
Dealer Members must at all times act fairly, honestly, professionally and in good conscience when dealing with an Artist, whether they are dealing directly with the Artist or dealing with the Artist through an Artist’s Representative. Examples of conduct that would not meet the required standard include, but are not limited to:
(a) unfair or unreasonable conduct;
(b) undue pressure or influence, including threats;
(c) not acting in good faith;
(d) paying an Artist by means of alcohol or drugs;
(e) unfairly taking advantage of, or exploiting, an Artist; and
(f) paying or agreeing to pay an Artist an amount or other consideration for the Artist's Artwork that is, in all the circumstances, against good conscience.
Now, consider a scenario where dealers join a code of conduct emphasizing best practices without robust enforcement. Would every dealer uphold these ethical standards?
This excerpt relates to the maximum financial repercussion relating to the art code regardless of wrong-doing
Section 5, Members
5.2 Limited liability of Members The liability of the Members of the Company is limited.
5.3 Members' liability on winding up Each Member undertakes to contribute to the assets of the Company in the event of it being wound up while they are a Member, or within one year after they cease to be a Member, for payment of the debts and liabilities of the Company and of the costs, charges and expenses of winding up, such amount as may be required not exceeding $50.
5.10 No obligation to provide reasons
The Directors are not obliged to give reasons for any decision they make under Rule 5.9.
The code's principles are commendable. Yet, we feel it's essential for consumers to understand the nuances of ethical and fair trading. For instance, would you, as a buyer, be content knowing the artist received only 15-20% of the listed price? This could be perceived as fair in the realm of a goodwill-centric art code.
ART ARK ® collaborates exclusively with non-profit Aboriginal Art centres, ensuring the highest standards in transparency and ethical trading. These centres undergo audits by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporation: https://www.oric.gov.au/.
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