Art market trends, insights and tips on buying, selling & collecting art...


TOMMY LOWRY , circa 1935-1987,  Two Men Dreaming at Kuluntjarranya , 1984, 121.5 x 183 cm

TOMMY LOWRY, circa 1935-1987, Two Men Dreaming at Kuluntjarranya, 1984, 121.5 x 183 cm

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from the Department of Communications and the Arts announcing an important change in legislation that will be an absolute game-changer for the Australian Indigenous art industry. 

The highly contentious Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 – which for many years restricted exports and thwarted the international trade for Indigenous art - was finally amended to more adequately reflect the current times.

In this post I’ve broken down the key changes that will benefit Indigenous art collectors (or you can read the new regulations in full here).   

First a quick look at the problems associated with the PMCH 1986: 

The previous regulations were antiquated and worked against the market. The legislation stated that any Indigenous artwork over 20 years of age and only $10,000 in value required a permit for export.  

This restriction began to capture a significant amount of contemporary art and slowly but surely strangled the entire international trade almost into non-existence. Collectors overseas simply wouldn’t risk buying something that potentially couldn’t leave the country.

I recognised the previous settings as a fundamental flaw in the entire trade. Needless to say, along with many in the industry, I have long been lobbying the Government for change.

Now a look at the new and improved PMCH 2018:

The amended Act now basically states that any Australian Indigenous painting made for sale that is over 30 years of age and $100,000 in value requires a permit for export.

This is great news for contemporary Australian Indigenous art - and a prudent first step in the right direction to level out the playing field with non-Indigenous art (which currently sits at a disparate $350,000 AUD). 

My argument has always been that any Australian artwork that was made for sale (whether it be Indigenous or non-Indigenous) should be treated equally. So let’s hope that this is the longer-term intent that comes with this significant initial legislative change.

Other amendments include:

  • For 19th century artefacts and pre-1960 bark paintings that weren’t made for sale – the threshold is now lifted to $25,000 (also moving from $10,000).

  • For Indigenous sculptures, the threshold is lifted to 30 years and $30,000

  • For Indigenous watercolours, drawings and sketches, the threshold is now 30 years and $20,000.

This progressive legislation amendment will help support the unquestionable and renewed growth of international interest in Australian Indigenous art and it’s culture - and that’s great news for the industry, but more importantly, for the artists and communities that are reliant on its royalties.

In alignment with this legislative momentum, I will announce some very exciting directional changes of my own - so stay tuned for that announcement at the end of the month.

What a great way to start the new year!