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The collecting cycles and art market trends in Australia from 1995 to 2010 clearly reflected the developments in art markets all around the world. The market for all periods in Australian art peaked in 2007, decreasing by a third before forming a plateau. Primarily, the building of Australian art collections dominated art sales, with only a small percentage of collectors involved in collecting international art. Although the latter was a growing trend, accessibility to the international art market limited this area of collecting.

During this period the collecting base in Australia broadened enormously in all areas of collecting, with Australian modern art (1940–70), contemporary art (1970–to present) and indigenous art being most sought after, exhibited and documented. Generally the market followed the same peaks and troughs seen elsewhere, without experiencing the same meteoric rises from the speculative and hedge fund-based money that were visible in other major centres. Although ...

Article

From the 1990s onwards, Australian contemporary art experienced significant growth in exhibition venues, both quantitatively, in terms of the number and scale of available spaces, and qualitatively, in terms of their scope, ambition and critical impact. The boom in physical exhibition spaces including museums, artist spaces, and commercial and non-profit galleries on the one hand and, on the other, the boom in such event-based institutions as biennales, triennials and festivals is consistent with global trends but also sits within the more general process of increasing confidence and internationalization of Australian art and its institutions that has been under way since the late 1960s. As such, these changes were a response to the country’s specific geographical and cultural conditions, and to shifts within art practice itself. It is important to note, however, that they have been neither constant nor consistent, and have involved significant challenges at the level of sustainability.

Australia was a relative latecomer to dedicated institutional support for contemporary art, with the country’s first and only public contemporary art museum opening in Sydney in ...

Article

While the main public art museums in Australia are to be found in its capital cities (see Australia §XII), throughout Australia there are over 160 regional art galleries, which are owned and funded by local and state governments. As well as displaying their own permanent collections, these art galleries have extensive exhibition programmes that include major national and international travelling exhibitions, together with community-based art shows. As Australia’s landmass is greater than Europe but with a relatively small population (22.68 million), this is an excellent way of taking art to people in country towns, isolated communities, and the hinterland of major cities. Regional galleries have outstanding art collections, acquired through philanthropic endowment and the Federal Government’s taxation concessions for cultural gifts. These collections constitute a significant percentage of the country’s Distributed National Art Collection and include key paintings in the history of Australian art.

Although some regional galleries date from the 19th century, there were still only seven in existence in ...

Article

[tribal art]

The market for ‘tribal art’ emerged in the first decades of the 20th century. By way of avant-garde artists and pioneering dealers, African and Oceanic art slowly became accepted as ‘art’—with its inclusion in the Musée du Louvre in Paris in 2000 as a decisive endorsement. Initially, it was referred to as ‘primitive art’—alluding to an early ‘primitive’ stage in human development; later replaced by the equally biased ‘tribal art’. While still used widely among dealers and collectors (for want of a better word and being conveniently short), the term ‘tribe’, or its derivative ‘tribal’, is frowned upon by the scholarly community.

The foundations of the tribal art market were laid at the turn of the 20th century. European powers colonized large overseas territories in both Africa and Oceania and, along with other commodities, there arrived ethnographic artefacts. Europeans had conducted coastal trade with many African regions over centuries, but systematic explorations of the continental hinterland did sometimes not take place until the first decades of the 20th century. These resulted in the discovery of previously unknown cultures whose ritual objects, such as masks, were displayed during world’s fairs and colonial exhibitions. Many of these objects ended up in newly established museums, such as the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, outside Brussels. Vigorous competitors in the collection of ethnographic objects in both Africa and Oceania, these museums became the leading players in the early phases of the tribal art market’s development. Next to these large-scale official collecting activities, colonial, military, or missionary personnel also brought home exotic objects....

Article

Noémie Goldman and Kim Oosterlinck

Term for the return of lost or looted cultural objects to their country of origin, former owners, or their heirs. The loss of the object may happen in a variety of contexts (armed conflicts, war, colonialism, imperialism, or genocide), and the nature of the looted cultural objects may also vary, ranging from artworks, such as paintings and sculptures, to human remains, books, manuscripts, and religious artefacts. An essential part of the process of restitution is the seemingly unavoidable conflict around the transfer of the objects in question from the current to the former owners. Ownership disputes of this nature raise legal, ethical, and diplomatic issues. The heightened tensions in the process arise because the looting of cultural objects challenges, if not breaks down, relationships between peoples, territories, cultures, and heritages.

The history of plundering and art imperialism may be traced back to ancient times. Looting has been documented in many instances from the sack by the Romans of the Etruscan city of Veii in ...