What is the Code?

The Indigenous Art Code is a system to preserve and promote ethical trading in Indigenous art.

The Code supports the rights of Indigenous Artists to negotiate fair terms for their work and gives buyers greater certainty about an artwork’s origin.

Dealers who are Code signatories have agreed to comply with the Code’s ethical standards in their dealings with Indigenous Artists and with art buyers. They may display the Code logo and apply Code certificates to artworks to demonstrate this commitment.

While the Code is voluntary it has been developed by the industry and has a robust legal framework to enforce ethical standards.

The Code has a close working relationship with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which has the power to investigate complaints involving breaches of the law.

The Code will also investigate complaints involving non-Code members.

How is the Code managed?

The Code is run by a public company – Indigenous Art Code Limited (the Company). The Company’s Board of Directors includes elected members and appointed Directors including Indigenous Artists, not for profit arts organisations and individuals with business and legal experience.

Members of the Code can attend the annual general meeting and vote on major Company issues. You can also nominate yourself or other Members for an appropriate position on the Board of Directors.

Who can join Indigenous Art Code Limited?

Anyone who is passionate about Indigenous art, and ethical treatment of Indigenous Artists, can join. There are three categories of membership:

  1. Dealer Members are organisations and individuals who are engaged in commercial trade involving Indigenous artworks and who commit to abide by the principles of the Code.
  2. Artist Members are Indigenous artists who support the principles of the Code.
  3. Supporter Members are organisations and individuals who do not engage in commercial trade in Indigenous art but who support the principles of the Code.

Why should I join?

If you are a Dealer:

  • Signing up to the Code shows your commitment to promoting ethical trading standards in buying and selling Indigenous art. As a Code signatory you will be able to display the Code logo and will be able to contribute to the running of the Code.
  • Code signatory status may benefit you in your relationships with Artists, as well as with art buyers.

If you are an Artist:

  • Your membership shows support for the Code and for ethical trading standards in Indigenous art.
  • Indigenous Art Code can provide support and advice to Artist members and will listen to and help with any issues you may have. You do not need to be a member to make a complaint to the Code.
  • Membership is your opportunity to provide feedback on the Code and to have your say in the way it is run.
  • You can attend and vote at the Code Annual General Meetings.

If you are a Supporter Member:

  • Your membership shows your commitment to the Code and to ethical trading standards in Indigenous art. Membership is your opportunity to provide feedback on the Code and to have a say in the way it is run.
  • You can attend and vote at the Code Annual General Meetings.

We encourage all art buyers to look for the Code logo when purchasing Indigenous art.

What does it mean to sign up to the Code?

Signing up to the Code is a commitment to ethical standards in buying and selling Indigenous art.

Dealers who sign up to the Code must comply with the standards set out in the Code which includes honest and transparent dealings with Indigenous Artists and customers.

To be a signatory to the Code, you must be a Dealer Member of Indigenous Art Code Limited.

You don’t have to be a Dealer to support the Code. We encourage anyone who is passionate about Indigenous art and believes in promoting ethical standards in the industry to become Artist or Supporter members.

We particularly welcome Artist members – your support is essential to the success of the Code.

What does it cost to join the Code?

Dealer Members and Supporter Members pay a membership fee of $150 to help cover the Code’s administration costs. There is no membership fee for Artists.

What are my obligations if I sign up to the Code?

The obligations of signatories are contained in the Company Constitution and the Indigenous Art Code. Briefly, Code signatories are required to:

  • Act fairly, honestly and professionally in dealings with Artists. The Code contains specific examples of unprofessional and illegal conduct which do not meet the required standard.
  • Ensure that Artists clearly understand the terms on offer and that they enter into agreements with informed consent.
  • Respect the cooling off period rights of the Artist.
  • Be transparent and responsive in regard to payments.
  • Provide true information about the authenticity and provenance of the work.
  • Supply a Code Certificate for any work that is received directly from the Artist.
  • Respect Indigenous cultural practices and Artists’ rights.
  • Take proper care of artworks in their possession.
  • Provide reports to the Artists on progress with sales and other details regarding their work.
  • Adhere to compliance and complaint handling procedures.

What paperwork will I need to complete in order to be Code compliant?

To ensure ethical standards in dealing the Code requires Dealers in Indigenous art to:

  • Maintain appropriate records including the terms of agreements with Artists.
  • Produce a Code Certificate for any work valued at more than $250 that is received directly from the Artist.

This process has been developed to be as simple and workable as possible while maintaining ethical standards.

The details required in these documents are set out in the Code, and Artwork Agreement Template documents are available from the Company at info@indigenousartcode.org

What is an Artwork Agreement?

An Artwork Agreement is an agreement between a Dealer and an Artist for the supply or acquisition of artwork. The Code does not require written Artwork Agreements, however Dealer Members must keep records of all dealings with Artists including Agreements about artworks.

To make this easier we have developed Artwork Agreement templates to assist Dealer Members meet the requirements of the Code. A number of templates have been developed to suit the particular circumstances that apply in most businesses. These are available by contacting the Company at info@indigenousartcode.org

I already have an established Artist-Dealer relationship, why do I need an Artwork Agreement?

We understand that in many cases artists and dealers already have strong and productive relationships.

The Artwork Agreement is not intended to alter or undermine those trust relationships but rather to ensure that proper records are kept. Records can take a variety of forms and may include such things as receipts, entries on a database, sales reconciliations, emails, letters, contracts, voice recording, and a written record of a conversation.

What is a Code Certificate?

A Code Certificate tells potential buyers that an artwork has been sold and purchased in compliance with the Code’s ethical trading standards.

The Code requires that if a signatory to the Code is the first Dealer of an artwork, they must produce a Code Certificate for the work. A first Dealer is the Dealer who receives artwork directly from an Artist either as a purchaser or as an agent representing the Artist.

In many cases, existing certificates of authenticity will only need minor adjustments to satisfy the requirements for a Code Certificate which include: the name of the artist; where and when the artwork was created; a description of the size and type of artwork; contact details for a person that can identify the work and their signature; and the details of the Dealer Member.

A Code Certificate is not required if the artwork is sold for less than $250 or if the artist has informed the Dealer that they do not want a Code Certificate created for that artwork.

More information on Code Certificates can be found in Section 5 of the Code. The Company has also produced a sample Code Certificate which can be obtained at info@indigenousartcode.org

What happens if a complaint is made against a Code member?

All Dealer Members of the Code are required to resolve complaints made against them fairly and promptly.

Where the Company receives a complaint made against a Dealer Member it will investigate the complaint through an independent Complaints Committee which will provide a fair opportunity for both parties to address the complaint.

What happens if a Dealer member is found to have breached the Code?

If a Dealer Member of the Code breaches any of the rules contained in the Code or the Company Constitution, or if their actions are damaging to the Code or contrary to the best interests of the Company, the Directors may undertake one or more of the following actions:

  • Suspend a Dealer Member’s rights and privileges of membership of the Company for such period as the Directors determine;
  • Impose conditions on their membership of the Company as the Directors determine;
  • Impose any other sanction agreed to by the Directors in accordance with the Code;
  • Expel a Dealer Member of the Company and have their name removed from the register;
  • Take any other action to remedy the breach.

Can I file a complaint about a Dealer who is not a member of the Code?

Yes. The Code has been established as an industry Code of Conduct and Dealers who become signatories are demonstrating a commitment to the Code’s ethical trading standards.

The Code retains a close relationship with the ACCC which has expressed a clear interest in unethical trading in the Indigenous art market. We will notify the ACCC where it is apparent that laws have been broken.

What is the Australian Government’s role in the Code?

The Code is a voluntary, industry Code of Conduct. It is managed and owned by the Indigenous visual arts industry.

The Australian Government is providing financial and administrative support to the Company to implement the Code.

The 2007 Senate Inquiry report recommended that the industry be given the opportunity to self-regulate and that, if after two years persistent problems remain, consideration should be given to moving to a prescribed code of conduct under the Trade Practices Act 1974 (now the Competition and Consumer Act 2010).

In line with this, IartC Ltd will commence a review of the efficacy of the Code by December 2012 and provide recommendations to the Australian Government regarding the next steps. The Government will consider options at that time.