When your audience can't come to you, then you look at new ways to go to them.

24 November 2021

That is exactly what the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair has done for the last two years during lockdowns and border restrictions that have prevented visitors attending the renowned annual event in person.

With ongoing support from the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program, the art fair quickly adapted to a digital platform in 2020. The outcome succeeded in showing how innovation enables events to adapt, survive and grow—building new audiences and markets.

Online art fairs mean anyone, anywhere—across Australia and the world—can ethically purchase artwork direct from Indigenous-owned art centres.

The 2020 online event exceeded expectations, attracting 45,000 website visitors and resulting in sales topping $2.6 million. This was a huge increase on the 17,000 in-person attendees in 2019.

On the back of this success, the art fair was able to build on its digital approach to attract new audiences in 2021 when a physical event was again not possible due to the ongoing pandemic. The 2021 online event attracted over 59,000 website visitors, generating $3.12 million in sales for the 70 art centres and 1,730 artists that were represented.

The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair online platform will now become part of their annual program and will continue to be a showcase for emerging and established Indigenous artists from remote desert areas to coastal regions.

This innovation, which enabled the art fair to not only survive but grow, highlights the directions set by the National Indigenous Visual Arts Action Plan—to expand digital engagement and markets for authentic Indigenous art for the benefit of artists and the sector.

Designed in partnership with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts sector, the action plan outlines a 5-year pathway to safeguard and grow a vibrant and sustainable Indigenous visual arts industry.

It will deliver economic opportunities for Indigenous communities, promote ethical dealing and enable this vibrant sector to explore opportunities for growth and develop new markets.

For more information see the Action Plan.

Digital browsing at the 2020 online Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, by Dylan Buckee.

Aerial view of the 2019 Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, by Dylan Buckee.