Tuesday 2 November 2010

Watch what you say about Art Dealers…

The Australian Northern territory Supreme Court in Alice Springs has recently denied an application from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) to strike out an Aboriginal art dealer’s defamation claim.

The case relates to a television programme which examines exploitation in the Aboriginal art industry. This is not a new subject, Bruce Chatwin describes the Aboriginal art industry with a mixture of humour and, at times, quiet anger in his classic Australian travelogue: Songlines. But Bruce Chatwin never faced a defamation claim. Unfortunately for ABC, despite the fact that the Claimant, Mr Nibbs, refers to himself as the "original carpetbagger" in the programme he is now claiming that what he in fact said was that others have referred to him as a carpetbagger.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Nibbs didn’t like the whole of Australia to believe he was a “carpetbagger” and alleged that viewers of the program have been led to believe he is unscrupulous in his dealings with Aboriginal artists, paying the artists inadequately for paintings produced under oppressive conditions.

As with all defamation claims, the very fact of bringing a claim has led to far wider coverage than might otherwise have happened. It also raises the importance of the artist-dealer relationship and how crucial this is for both parties.

For more information on Aboriginal art, see here.

ABC news

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