Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship Seminar Series

Understanding Australian Indigenous art at auction


Tim Fry


School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University

Time & Place

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 12:00:00 NZDT in Room 236, Meremere

All are welcome


Contemporary Australian Indigenous visual art has been growing in terms of both market share and critical acclaim since its naissance as an art movement in the mid-1930s. Indigenous art began to be recognized as a significant art form in the 1950s and in 2015 a stand-alone collection at Sotheby’s London was sold for AU$2 million reflecting the now global interest in this market. While the movement is defined in terms of the ethnic origin of the creators (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples) the styles of the artwork vary greatly from the traditional watercolours of the Hermannsburg School to the ‘dot’ paintings of the Papunya Tula artists of the Western Desert, among others.

This talk represents our journey as a research team to better understand Australian Indigenous art that is offered for sale at auction. Using a database constructed from the Australian Art Sales Digest and publically available data on Australian Indigenous artists covering the period 1969 to 2014 we apply empirical modelling techniques to seek to better understand why such artworks sell and, if so, what factors are associated with the “hammer price”. The talk is based upon four articles. It is non-technical and will focus on the roles played by pre-sale information (what is known about the artwork and the market prior to sale), the characteristics of the artist (including gender and language group), the characteristics of the auction itself and patterns over time. I will conclude by highlighting future research avenues for empirical, qualitative and experimental methods to broaden and deepen the understanding of the auction (secondary) market for Australian Indigenous artworks.


Tim Fry graduated with an honours degree in Econometrics from the University of Kent at Canterbury and a Masters degree in Econometrics from the University of
Manchester. He then worked in advertising research and market modeling in London. After his time in industry, he returned to the University of Manchester to undertake a Ph.D. in Econometrics. He has since pursued an academic career working at the Universities of Manchester and Exeter in England and at Monash University and The
University of Melbourne in Australia. He joined The School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University in 2003 as a Professor of Econometrics and became
Head of School in 2013.

Tim is particularly interested in applying statistical techniques to problems in microeconomics broadly defined. His recent work has been in consumer demand (allocation) models and in cultural economics. He specializes in the analysis of cross section and longitudinal survey data, compositional data analysis, measuring
advertising effectiveness and micro-econometrics.

Over the years, Tim has taught a range of subjects both in econometrics and in marketing research. He has published research reports and a large number of research papers in a wide range of international journals covering the economics, finance, marketing, political science, sociology and transportation disciplines. Since joining RMIT in 2003 Tim has been a chief investigator on 5 Australian Research Council projects and has received research funding from industry and VicHealth to work on a number of research projects to build models to understand markets and/or to aid the decision-making process.