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Aiming to Grow Market, Steve Martin Launches Fund for Australian Indigenous Artists

Aiming to Grow Market, Steve Martin Launches Fund for Australian Indigenous Artists

Steve Martin, the actor, writer, and ardent art collector, has helped launch a new fund to support Australian Indigenous artists. The fund, called the National Endowment for Indigenous Visual Arts (Neiva), is organized by Melbourne gallerist D’Lan Davidson, a specialist of Australian Indigenous art, and backed by Swiss private equity fund manager and art collector Bruno Raschle. The program aims to build a sustainable market for the country’s Indigenous artists—both in Australia and abroad—and develop an Indigenous arts network that includes education for youth and career mentoring for emerging artists.

Following an initial investment, the program’s partners hope Neiva will generate its own revenue stream from art sales. Davidson’s Armdale gallery, D’Lan Contemporary, currently offers every seller the option to donate 2.5 percent of sales proceeds, which the gallery matches to 5 per cent. With the launch of the initiative, the gallery will donate 2.5–10 percent of future sale proceeds from primary and secondary art market sales to the fund, depending on the nature of the transaction. A committee comprised of Aboriginal visual art leaders will have full control over how the funds are distributed.

“Art sales are often the primary source of non-government income for remote Indigenous Australian communities,” Davidson said in a statement. “The existing primary and secondary Indigenous art market, however, does not generate sufficient revenue to support both the artists and their broader communities. We want to change this.”

Davidson partnered early in the project with Martin, who has been an outspoken advocate for Aboriginal art since acquiring his first piece in 2015, a dizzying work by Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, a revered painter and healer of the Pintupi people. Tjapaltjarri’s painting occupies a place of honor in Martin’s renowned collection, which also includes works by modern masters like Francis Bacon, Edward Hopper, and Lucian Freud. (Martin has formerly appeared on the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list.)

In 2019, Martin organized a special exhibition of contemporary Indigenous Australian painting with Gagosian gallery. The show, titled “Desert Painters of Australia,” showcased works by some of Australia’s most important artists, such as George Tjungurrayi and Emily Kame Kngwarreye.

In a statement, Martin said, “By becoming involved with The National Endowment for Indigenous Visual Arts, I hope to help raise awareness of these talented Indigenous artists and drive revenue to the fund to support the artists and their remote communities.”

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