Summary of findings:
Stability: Around 90% of independent Aboriginal artists have been working for five years or more and many for over 20 years. Modest production and sales: Most artists work part time, with low levels of sales. In the week before their interviews, three-quarters of artists produced three or fewer works, and three-quarters earned $100 or less from art sales in the same period.
Confidence: Artists were largely confident in their professional choices and in navigating their different options for producing and selling artworks.
Risk: The risk of unfair or unethical treatment does not discourage artists from working independently and engaging directly with private art trading businesses.
Knowledge: Artists had low levels of wider professional or industry knowledge.
Trust: Some artists mistrust dealers and galleries, but this mistrust either did not dominate artists’ working lives or they were confident in managing their situation.
Trade practices: Around half of all artists have felt ‘ripped off’ at some point. In contrast, artists also reported few specific problems, and their responses indicated confidence in their ability to manage commercial relationships, including issues such as ‘book-up’. It is hoped that this research can be used to inform organisations whose work intersects with that of independent artists and that at an art industry level, a more informed and nuanced, less polarised debate might be possible.