A sculpture featuring a fake boomerang balanced on a stack of gold coins, painted with ochre and the words “Come back home”, has won its creator the prestigious Wyndham Art Prize for 2020.
- Amala Groom’s winning artwork aims to highlight the lack of copyright entitlements for Indigenous artworks
- Proposed legislation to ban the selling of fake ‘Indigenous-style’ artworks has been rejected by Parliament
- Ms Groom was named as the sole NSW finalist for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award 2020
Despite being selected above dozens of entries for the non-acquisitive prize worth $12,000, conceptual artist Amala Groom said it was a “bittersweet” win.
The Wiradyuri woman said she made the piece, titled Copywrong, in response to the lack of copyright entitlements for Indigenous cultural materials.
Ms Groom said the creation of fake Indigenous art, which was often sold as tourist souvenirs, was an enduring problem.
“It’s just a travesty,” Ms Groom said.
Ms Groom learned of her win days after proposed legislation to give greater protection for Indigenous cultural expressions was rejected by a Senate committee.
The bill sought to effectively ban the sale of Indigenous-style artworks unless they were produced or licensed by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.
“It’s just an ongoing struggle to have Indigenous copyright protected under the Australian legal system,” she said.
An estimated 80 per cent of Indigenous-style works purported to be made in Australia are made by non-Indigenous people and often manufactured overseas, according to a campaign by Arts Law, the Indigenous Art Code and the Copyright Agency.
Launched in 2016, the Fake Art Harms Culture campaign aimed to raise awareness of the growing presence of inauthentic art and craft products sold in Australia.
Success on country
For the first time in its six year history, the Wyndham Art Prize winner announcement was made via an online video award ceremony.
Judge Myles Russell-Cook, who is the curator of Indigenous art at the National Gallery of Victoria, described Ms Groom’s work as a “powerful installation”.
“The judges found this work to be provocative, considered and impactful in its simplicity,” Mr Russell-Cook said.
While many of Ms Groom’s projects and exhibitions have been cancelled or postponed, she has scored another success for 2020.
She was recently named as the sole New South Wales finalist for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award held annually in Darwin.
After years of working in Sydney and travelling extensively for artist residencies, the 41-year-old said she is enjoying living back on Wiradyuri land in Bathurst, NSW.
“It’s been really nice to be at home and just chill out, and to be in the close proximity of family and to be on country,” she said.
The fake boomerang has since been returned to Ms Groom but now sits inside a mailbag until it can be publicly displayed.