Artists of Ampilatwatja Corporation is an Aboriginal community art centre located about four hours north east from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory that supports local Alywarr artists of the Ampilatwatja community. Ampilatwatja artists paint finely dotted landscapes depicting each artist’s own particular country in a distinctive style using a broad colour spectrum .
In 2012, Ampilatwatja contacted Artists in the Black about a dispute with an overseas gallery relating to a contract for the consignment and sale of artworks. The contract had been made earlier that year for the exhibition and sale of 32 artworks produced by 17 of its Indigenous artists. Under the contract, the gallery was to pay either a percentage of the retail price set by the art centre, or a percentage of the price an artwork was sold for, within 2 weeks of any sale or at the end of the consignment period. Unsold artworks were to be returned to the art centre at the end of the consignment period.
The exhibition was successful and twenty two of the paintings were sold. A dispute arose as to the calculation of the amount owed to the artists and the return of the unsold works.
In most cases, Artists in the Black can provide very little help to artists in dispute with galleries or businesses located overseas. We can only advise on Australian law and it is extremely difficult to recover money or property from overseas. However, on this occasion, Artists in the Black was able to persuade international law firm DLA Piper to provide the services of a lawyer based in the United Kingdom on a pro bono basis. Solicitor Luke Holmes negotiated a successful resolution of the dispute that involved the return of the remaining unsold artworks and agreeing the amount of the final payment.
Doing business overseas can be fabulous for raising your international profile and accessing new markets but it is very risky. Make sure you are dealing with someone reputable and trustworthy. If things don’t work out, it will be difficult and expensive to enforce your contract. In addition, it is always worthwhile making sure that your contract is clear and unambiguous so that when a dispute does arise, you know where you stand.