If you have heard of the Indigenous Art Code or seen the logo here and there you may be wondering if we are a member. The quick answer is no, we are not a member of the Indigenous Art Code, but clearly not being a member doesn’t make much sense unless we share why.
First, to be clear, the concept of a code of conduct is in our view the best step forward for the Aboriginal Art Industry. ART ARK® seeks to engage with and offer free services to that end. That being said, from a legal point of view(for us), please find your own truth.
A personal account from Guy, our founder: "I’m 35, still young for some but I can definitely feel the years catching up with me. Recently, as the body starts creaking in unknown places, I have become more conscious of healthy living, in the hope of keeping up with my little ones.
Considering this, the other day I found myself wandering the dairy isle, wondering if healthy cheese existed? On my third pass I was delighted to spot a 4-star option! Cheese is normally a one- or two-star proposition, so I grabbed it knowing it was the healthier option.
Behavioral science dictates that our minds have evolved to unconsciously take mental short cuts to allow us to quickly navigate the endless array of decisions we face. These cognitive processes are known as heuristics and allow us to make quick decisions without any real mental energy or effort.
The four-star cheese was a non-brainer for me despite having no researched knowledge of the Health Star Rating system that I both accepted and made decisions upon.
So, what does the Indigenous Art Code mean to you? Have you read it, or like me and the cheese do you just accept it does as you believe? Is their logo all you look for when looking to buy Aboriginal Art ethically?
The Indigenous Art Code was formed and funded in 2010 by NAVA; later funded by the Australia Council for the Arts. The Indigenous Art Code is a proprietary company run by its members/signees and was founded to combat unethical trading in Aboriginal Art. The code is voluntary and is open to all industry members wishing to sign it.
The Indigenous Art Code formed at a time when I was enjoying a few memorable years working for an Aboriginal Art centre in the Kimberley. At this time, and in the following years, I strongly queried the effectiveness of a voluntary and unenforceable art code based on good intentions.
5 years later I started ART ARK® in a slow changing industry with my own strong opinion that people, given the opportunity, would want to support and celebrate Australia’s First Nations People, ethically. And five years on again, my initial concerns are relevant with little progress made.
The Indigenous Art Code supports members who say they will do the right thing. Unfortunately, there are no systems in place to define or enforce this good will. And with that said, ART ARK® cannot in good conscious, validate the Indigenous Art Code as being an ethical failsafe to buying Aboriginal Art.
Please view the Indigenous Art Code constitution and code here.
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.
Hypothetically, if I told you a story about the folks (and I mean pricks!) openly and unethically trading in Aboriginal Art being given the opportunity to join a code of conduct that verifies and solidifies practices, without auditing or financial repercussions do you think they would join?
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 $50.00.
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 idea of the code is good but we take issue with consumers believing this means ethical or fair trading. If you realised the artist received 15-20%, or less, of the listed price, would you be happy as the buyer? It could be easily justifiable in regards to the good-will and good-intentions code.
ART ARK ® exclusively partners with non-profit Aboriginal Art centre’s. This ensures a gold standard in transparency and ethical trading. Aboriginal Art centres are audited by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporation: https://www.oric.gov.au/