It's A White Thing By Australian Artist And Activist Richard Bell

1728 Words7 Pages

Challenging the current state and trends of Aboriginal artwork within the contemporary art market, Australian artist and activist Richard Bell produced a painting titled “Aboriginal Art – It’s a White Thing” (2003) to express his angst and distain towards the commercialisation, commodification and institutionalisation of Aboriginal art. While controversial, Bell’s artwork openly portrayed the ethnocentric values forced upon Aboriginal art by the “fine arts” and contemporary art markets. This essay will discuss how Western influences have affected the production and commercialisation of Aboriginal art within the contemporary art market as well as the commodification of Aboriginal art for tourism and Australian advertising.
Arguing against the …show more content…

There is, however, an industry that caters for Aboriginal art.” A source of great discomfort for Bell, the lack of involvement by Aboriginal artists in the financial and marketing process of the contemporary market provides multiple opportunities for Western dealers to control the profits and marketing of others works. Bell argues that it is imperative for non-Indigenous viewers to “recognise that the paintings are not just beautiful pictures. They are about Aboriginal law. Aboriginal life”. The dominant role played by Western institutions is further explored in Bell’s …show more content…

Bell (2003) notes that, “while Aboriginal people produce the artworks, it is non-Aboriginal people who define and control the market.” In a later statement, he adds, “White people say what’s good. White people say what’s bad. White people buy it. White people sell it.”
The commercialisation of Indigenous art has categorised itself into a niche market. This niche market is affected by persisting problems including, most of the art is no longer controlled by Indigenous people and how the diminishing value of actual Aboriginal artworks is further degraded by the mass production of commodities made to drive tourism in Australia.
Despite the emergence of Aboriginal art onto the international market from the 1980s, the subsequent expansion of the art form has brought many obstructions to the development of its foundation within the contemporary market. Challenging both cultural and economic forces, Aboriginal art as expressed though Bell’s “It’s a White Thing”, has become an art form governed by the jurisdiction of the Western anthropologists and art

Open Document