Japingka Aboriginal Art Gallery
a traditional & contemporary approach to marketing
I have long admired the aesthetic qualities of Australian Aboriginal Artworks. So much so that it is hard for me to walk past a gallery. In the interest of full disclosure – I am not pretending to know anything about Australian Aboriginal Art or any art for that matter, however, like many people i just like what I like.
One Saturday afternoon, I was wandering down High Street in the West-End of Fremantle [actually I was hoping to take some photographs], and was drawn into Japingka Gallery. I have been there a few times, the gallery has been in Fremantle for around 30 years and they have a large collection and are constantly updating their window display. I believe, that Japingka Gallery is one of the biggest in Australia. As I wandered around, one artwork in particular, ‘Seven Sisters Dreaming’, caught my eye and I became enthralled as Jody Fitzhardinge from the gallery told me the narrative of artwork; as she did, the artwork, as beautiful as it is, took on a broader, deeper, and more beautiful meaning. The story, she said, provides a glimpse into the sacred culture of this remote tribe of people, it depicts the story of the seven ancestral Napaljarri sisters who to prevent capture turn themselves into fire and ascend to the heavens, they are represented by a group of seven stars that are visible in our night sky [see below].
Today e-commerce is redefining how art is marketed. Ian and David introduce me to a leading online platform for buying and selling art – Saatchi Art. This mobile friendly site is extremely interesting – not just as a place to purchase art but as a marketing affiliate for emerging artists. One promotion on the site ‘Be original – Buy original’ is an example of great storytelling. Another is an app that utilises augmented reality technology to enable the potential purchaser to view the ‘virtual artwork’ in their home, this app includes the ability to capture and share.
I ask if purchasing art online is risky. David states ‘we believe in ethical behaviour and would refund the purchase price if an artwork was not to expectations [within 21 days] … we are founding member of the Federal Government’s Indigenous Art Code of Conduct. It is not just about making a sale, what is also important is to ensure that the provenance of the art is respected and that the artists profit form their efforts – we know most of the artists and it is like a ‘birthday surprise’ when they post new works to us.
Ian stated that much of today’s interest should be attributed to the hard work of many people, however, former Prime Minister, the late Gough Whitlam deserves special recognition as he promoted the cultural and aesthetic value and woke many people up from a deep sleep. When opening a conference on aboriginal art at the Australian National University, in 1973 Whitlam gave a magnificent speech, here is an excerpt from the speech:
“My aboriginal artworks reminds me of a special time in the Warburton Ranges – The artwork ‘the roads to warburton’ was painted a local young woman – it is not valuable to anyone else but me. The artwork depicts all the colour of the ranges. Before I went there I thought the desert would be one colour – but it is not. Strangely, I lost the painting and then recovered it which was really fortunate – this adds to the story – I now treasure it.”
With their passion evident it is not surprising that David, Ian, and Jody have taken Aboriginal Art to the world and have undertaken many exhibitions overseas. They have a higher purpose – to communicate an appreciation for the culture and believe that there should be an Aboriginal Artwork in ever Australian home. The see the relationship as about sustainability and their goal is to provide remote communities with a stable source of income, work that is respected by the local and wider community, and is in harmony and preserves their culture.
Considering Australian Aboriginal art as a product
When we examine the marketing of Australian Aboriginal artworks as a product, we can clearly see all 6 product components are present. You may recall that the product components are goods, services, ideas, experiences, people and places. In sum: the artwork itself is material [goods], it provides an aesthetic service to the owner, it is embedded with ideas, it provides an experience, it represents the artist [people], and portrays a place.
For many, Australian Aboriginal artworks would be classified as an ideas dominant product [not discounting the importance of the other product components]. To effectively communicate and diffuse the symbolic and aesthetic ‘ideas’ embeded within Australian Aboriginal artwork requires a synergistic, symbiotic, strategic, and sustainable marketing relationship between the artists and the gallery. The artists are cultural producers and the gallery is more than a ‘marketing intermediary’, they are a ‘marketing influencer’. The galleries are influencing consumer tastes and helping to create a consumer culture that values and adopts the ideas embedded within Australian Aboriginal art Successful marketing of this product requires an expanded interpretation of profit, one that is richer than a financial profit of a balance sheet.
You may find the following interesting
Venkatesh, A. & Meamber, L. A. (2006). Arts and aesthetics: Marketing and cultural production. Marketing Theory 6(1), 11–39. The authors discuss artists, in general, as cultural interpreters and producers
Belk, R. & Groves, R. (1999). Marketing and the Multiple Meanings of Australian Aboriginal Art. Journal of Macromarketing 19(1), 20-33. The authors discuss how meanings and interpretations vary with distance from the place of production.