Sydney art dealer Adrian Newstead spoke of his 30 year involvement in Aboriginal art at the launch of his latest book “The Dealer is the Devil: An Insiders History of the Aboriginal Art Trade”. The book launch at Japingka Gallery on Friday 4 April coincided with the exhibition opening for “Desert Song – Women Artists”.
Newstead spent 7 years writing this fast- paced account of the major issues and events that have affected the Aboriginal art market on its journey from a tiny niche supply in 1970 to a major art movement 40 years later. The book has 66 concise chapters and runs to 500 pages with evocative photos of the people, places and artworks that are central to the story.
Newstead examines the many drivers to the growth of Aboriginal art over this time-frame, from anthropologists and missionaries to community art centres and independent dealers and gallerists. Newstead proposes the title ‘The Dealer is the Devil’ as a partly ironic comment on the perceptions of the art dealer in the role of delivering a degree of self-reliance to Aboriginal artists in remote communities delivering their artworks to the world wide audience.
Matters of provenance, attribution and authorship are discussed in the one of the 7 sub-sections titled ‘Highway to Hell’. Another section titled ‘The Goose that laid the Golden Egg’ deals with the spread and status of collectible Aboriginal art. Newstead delves into the many conflicts and controversies that have orbited around the development and marketing of Aboriginal art in Australia.
At the book launch Newstead characterised Aboriginal art as a fire burning across desert country, in essence slow-moving but active across a wide front. He stated his strong belief that the period from 1940 to 1990 would be viewed in the future as a time when something exceptional was going on in Australia, an extraordinary confluence of ancient culture sharing its heritage with a wider world at a time of rapid change in remote Australia.
Sotheby’s Australia’s founding CEO Robert Bleakly states that ‘There is no-one better equipped to deliver the knowledge contained in this book describing a slice of Australian history.’ Adrian Newstead’s book ‘The Dealer is the Devil’ is published by Brandl and Schlesinger and is available for $50 in paperback and $80 in hardback.
View the Desert Song Gallery