Balgo 4-04 Marketing Art from the Desert

Jacqueline Healy


This case study examines key issues facing art centres marketing Indigenous Art from remote area Australia. It focuses on the exhibition Balgo 4-04 held at Warlayirti Artists Art Centre (WAAC), Balgo, Western Australia at Easter 2004. Art exhibitions in remote area communities are not a new phenomenon. The element that differentiated Balgo 4-04 was that the characteristics of a major commercial exhibition were transported to an art centre in the middle of the Tanami desert. The event Balgo 4-04 reflected many of the commercial pressures placed on the art centre by the art market. These include the constant demand for high quality work from collectors and dealers; the demand by major commercial galleries for solo exhibitions of major artists; the expectation of special treatment and personalised service by collectors; the pressure on artists to produce work and the art centre's role as both a wholesale and retail outlet. As well, there was a fundamental change in perspective due to the withdrawal of government subsidy concerning its business operations. There was a clear focus on the core business of art production and maximising returns through sales. Simultaneously, Balgo 4-04 revealed the inherent risks in seeking independence, no matter how transitory, from commercial galleries, through retailing art directly to collectors rather than through the usual practice of wholesaling art. Balgo 4-04 was a unique event. In the case study that follows, an analysis of the details of the event shows the phenomena of marketing art from remote areas and the challenges faced by art centres trying to remain viable in remote locations.

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Asia Pacific Journal of Arts and Cultural Management; ISSN 1449-1184
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